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Boston Criminal Defense Law Blog

3 differences between murder and manslaughter

Manslaughter and murder are both serious felonies in the state of Massachusetts. If you are charged with either, you should take steps to understand what these charges mean and consult with an attorney to determine the best means of defense. You may not understand what the difference between these two charges is, though, and this is also something you should familiarize yourself with.

There are several key differences separating a manslaughter charge from a murder charge. In some cases, a murder charge may be reduced to a manslaughter charge through plea bargaining, but there are still a few important differentiations to note. Following are three of the most important differences between a manslaughter charge and a murder charge. 

Online child pornography and selfies -- a dangerous combination

The proliferation of cellphones and other portable devices that can take and transmit photographs has given rise to a new form of child pornography -- the taking and transmitting of photographs of minor children via the Internet. A selfie, as most people in Massachusetts know, is a self-portrait photograph taken with a cellphone. The growing use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, has led to the widespread distribution of selfies and other photos taken with cellphone cameras. Unfortunately, some people have chosen to exploit the use of cellphones to create and circulate pornographic photos of minor children.

Every state and the federal government has laws forbidding the creation of child pornography and penalizing the creation and sale of child pornography. The precise definition of the crime may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor. Massachusetts added participation with lascivious intent to its definition of child pornography.

A hard lesson on doctoring sales numbers

Let us say you are the chief financial officer of a mid-sized software company. You are a new employee anxious to prove your worth to an overbearing boss.

The quarterly numbers have to look good, and the CEO is pressuring you to do whatever is necessary to achieve that end. Now fictitious sales transactions have been discovered, and you may be facing charges of securities fraud.

How to prepare for a college disciplinary hearing

Massachusetts is known for its numerous quality establishments of higher education. College is supposed to be a time of learning and making lifelong decisions for the future. Such growth into adulthood often involves making mistakes. Unfortunately, sometimes these errors in judgment can cross the line into criminal activity.

When this happens, students may face both criminal charges from the government and disciplinary action from the schools they attend. Most people understand the need for a lawyer and defense plan for the first situation, but just as important is representation and preparation for the second. Otherwise, potential consequences include loss of housing, financial aid, scholarships, leadership positions and student status.

What is 'hearsay' and why is it inadmissible in a felony trial?

Criminal trials are conducted according to strict procedural rules. One of the most important set of rules governs the admissibility in a trial of various types of evidence. These rules go by various names -- in Massachusetts, they are called the Guide to Evidence -- but they control the kinds of statements, exhibits and objects that can be presented to the jury in every type of trial, from felonies to minor traffic violations. One of the most complex rules is the so-called "hearsay rule."

Hearsay is a statement made by a person while that person is not testifying as a witness at trial and that is offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. The main purpose of the hearsay rule is to preserve the adverse party's constitutional right to confront and question any witness call to testify against the party. A common example of hearsay is a witness who is called to testify that "Joe told me he committed the crime." If Joe is not in the courtroom, he cannot be cross-examined and the statement cannot be admitted into evidence to prove Joe's guilt.

Felonies: what is the Miranda warning and when is it used?

The phrase "Miranda warning" is known to most residents of Massachusetts, but the exact meaning of the phrase is often unclear. The phrase refers to the title of a famous United States Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, decided in 1966. The case turned on whether local police properly and clearly informed Mr. Miranda of his right to remain silent during a police interrogation for allegedly committing a felony.

The right of a criminal defendant to remain silent when questioned by police has been recognized for about 800 years, since the signing of Magna Carta in 1215. In Miranda, the Court held that the police were constitutionally required to advise the suspect of his right to remain silent and his right to be represented by counsel. Not every person questioned by police is entitled to a Miranda warning. A person questioned as a witness and not for purposes of imposing custody is not entitled to receive the warning. People being questioned in connection with a traffic stop are not entitled to the privilege during preliminary questioning.

Four common teenage crimes

It is no surprise to anyone that teenagers sometimes get into trouble. Adolescence is often a time of rebellion and experimentation. As a parent, it is important for you to know about the risk of juvenile crime and to get legal help if law enforcement arrests your child.

One important step in preventing your high schooler from falling into legal trouble is understanding the most common offenses among young people. Here is a list of some of the most prevalent juvenile crimes.

What is the entrapment defense for those accused of felonies?

Police in Massachusetts use many different techniques to gather evidence in a criminal investigation. One of the most frequently used techniques is the pre-arranged transaction, such as the sale and purchase of illegal drugs. To execute the scheme, a police officer will offer to sell (or purchase) illegal drugs from the suspect, and the suspect will be arrested as soon as the transaction is complete. Many people wonder how a person can be convicted of a felony when the police played an active role in commission of the crime itself. The ability of the police to use such a technique to gather evidence is sharply limited by the "entrapment defense."

A person cannot be convicted of a crime when the intent to engage criminal conduct was induced by the police. A person asserting the entrapment defense must show that he or she had no intention of engaging in criminal conduct before the police took actions to persuade the person to commit the crime in question. In other words, a person who had formed an intent to commit a crime before the police acted cannot rely on the entrapment defense.

Must you submit to a breath test in Massachusetts?

Operating while under the influence is a serious offense in Massachusetts. A first offense for an OUI, even one that does not result in any injuries or property damage, can still result in a suspension of your driver's license and jail time up to two-and-a-half years.

It does not take many alcoholic drinks to go over the legal limit. Depending on your weight and metabolism, it may only take two drinks to blow a 0.08 percent on a breath testing device. This begs the question, "Do you absolutely have to consent to a breath test if a police officer pulls you over?" An officer cannot force you to take a breath test, but you should weigh the pros and cons of such a decision and how it could impact a potential future court case.

What is a federal computer crime?

The advent of the Internet has spawned a variety of criminal activities that are commonly referred to as "cybercrimes," "computer crimes," and "network crimes." The terms are used interchangeably and do not vary in their meaning. A Massachusetts who resident commits one of the enumerated crimes involving computers may be charged with one or more serious federal crimes.

The most sweeping Federal statute that defines computer crimes is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which was first passed in 1984. The statute has been amended several times, but its central focus remains unchanged: whoever accesses a computer or computer network with intent to commit one or more of the acts identified in the statute can be charged with a computer crime. Specific crimes include obtaining national security information, obtaining information from a computer that the defendant does not own or is not authorized to use, trespassing in a government computer, using a computer to defraud and obtain value and extortion involving computers.

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