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Drug charges shouldn't derail a student's life

College is a time of great academic pursuits and personal growth. Between studying for exams, discovering a path in life, and creating lifelong relationships, there is a huge amount of pressure and expectation placed on students. Sometimes, this pressure may contribute to making decisions that aren't necessarily in the best interest of the student, such as taking drugs. These decisions, however, shouldn't completely derail a student's momentum in life.

New gun law allows seizure of weapon from dangerous person

Massachusetts has some of the nation's strictest gun laws that place significant limits on the rights of individuals to own and carry firearms. The state recently passed a law banning the use of "bump stocks," attachments that can convert a semi-automatic weapon into a completely automatic weapon. Now, Gov. Charlie Baker has signed the "extreme risk protection" bill, also known as a red flag law.

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."

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.

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."

What is a 'terroristic threat' in Massachusetts?

Ever since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, many states, including Massachusetts, have passed laws making "terroristic threats" a crime. Prior to passage of such laws, the actual use of guns, explosives and biological agents was covered by the general criminal laws of the states. Now, however, the making of threats to cause violence, whether or not the violence actually occurs, is a serious felony.

What is probable cause?

One of the most frequently used phrases in criminal law is "probable cause." In Massachusetts, probable cause is necessary to arrest someone, conduct a search without a warrant, detain a person arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime or to obtain a search warrant. The rule applies to both felonies and misdemeanors.

Understanding sex offender registration laws

Many people in Massachusetts realize that the state has a sex offender registration act, but few understand its mechanics. The United States Department of Justice also maintains a sex offender registration list, but the existence of this list and how it may be accessed are very poorly understood.

Can a defendant's past crime be introduced into evidence?

A common question asked by criminal defendants with histories of prior criminal activity is whether evidence of a prior crime can be used to prove guilt. For example, a person who is accused of felony drug charges may have been convicted of a similar crime on a prior occasion. Can that earlier conviction be used to prove that the defendant committed the crime for which he or she is being tried?

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