Murder is perhaps the most serious criminal charge that can be leveled at a person. Most residents of Massachusetts understand that murder is the crime of intentionally killing another human being. Less well understood is the difference between first and second degree murder.
Today's media is filled with references to grand juries, especially the grand juries that are hearing evidence presented by special counsel, Robert Mueller. Even with all this news coverage, few Massachusetts residents outside of the legal profession understand the function of grand juries.
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.
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.
Federal courts in Massachusetts and elsewhere use two kinds of juries: petit and grand. Petit juries hear evidence at trial and return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. The work of grand juries focuses on investigating federal crimes to determine whether probable cause exists that a certain person committed a certain crime. Its work is usually conducted in secret sessions, and its functioning is much less well understood by the general public.
One of the most widely known phrases from American criminal law is "pleading the Fifth." While many people in Massachusetts are familiar with the phrase, very few know exactly what the phrase means. The phrase refers to the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and "pleading the fifth" means that a defendant or a witness is invoking that amendment as the ground for refusing to testify in a state or federal criminal trial.
All fifty states, including Massachusetts, require convicted sex offenders to provide certain information about their current residence, employment and related life information. The purpose of compiling this information is to allow members of the public to check up on sex offenders who may have moved into their neighborhood or have begun working for a local employer after being convicted of a sex crime in another jurisdiction.
Computers have infiltrated the lives of almost everyone who lives in Massachusetts, and the English language has consequently incorporated new verbs and nouns -- spam, viruses, malware, identify theft and hacking, to name a few. Despite the advantages of living in the digital age, a few malefactors have found ways to subvert computers to in order to commit a crime. The Massachusetts legislature has responded by identifying certain computer actions as felonies.
Most people in Massachusetts understand that a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to engage in criminal conduct. But what, exactly, is a federal conspiracy? The answer is both simple and complex.
The laws of Massachusetts define several kinds of conduct as sex crimes, including sexual conduct with a minor, sexual assault, child molestation and numerous others. Generally, most offenses involving sexual misconduct fall within the jurisdictions of the individual states. Nevertheless, federal law also defines a number of offenses as sex crimes. Some offenses on the list of federal crimes overlap or duplicate sex crimes enumerated by the Commonwealth, but some are unique to federal law.