Criminal Defense Questions

Field Sobriety Tests in Massachusetts

In order to identify citizens who are driving under the influence of alcohol and certain drugs, police will often use Field Sobriety Tests to determine if a driver is under the influence. A driver is said to be under the influence of alcohol if their blood alcohol concentration is above 0.08%, and in commercial drivers the limit is set at 0.04%.

If a police officer believes that a driver is intoxicated, they may ask the driver to submit to several field sobriety tests. The horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one leg stand test are 3 field sobriety tests that are often used.

 The horizontal gaze nystagmus test can identify the use of alcohol or other drugs that depress the central nervous system by showing a nystagmus in the eye. A nystagmus is involuntary bouncing or jerking of the eyeball that occurs when one looks to the side. This involuntary bouncing or jerking can be either caused by alcohol intoxication or the use of other drugs such as inhalants or phencyclidine (aka PCP or Angel Dust). Alcohol and certain other drugs depress the central nervous system making it difficult for the brain to control the eye muscles. To administer the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a police officer will position an object such as a pen or a finger about a foot away from the driver’s view. The officer will then note any bouncing or jerking movements of the driver’s eyes as they follow the pen with their eyes from side to side. [Read more…]

Are Parents Held Accountable for “Social Hosting” ?

It’s well-known that the legal drinking age in all states, including Massachusetts, is 21. However, what about “social hosting”? Social hosting refers to providing alcohol or other illegal substances to a minor that is not your own child on your property or in an environment you control. Especially during graduation time, some parents reason if they provide alcohol at a party at their private residence in a safe environment, ensuring that minors do not drink and drive, they are not committing a crime. Massachusetts’ “Social Host” law says that they are. Consider the consequences and situations covered by this law.

  • You could pay fines and go to jail. The penalty in Massachusetts for “social hosting” is a fine up to $2,000 and/or prison time for up to one year. Of course, if injury occurred, such as if a child died in an accident after leaving your home, you could be convicted of more serious crimes, resulting in a longer prison sentence.

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What is reckless endangerment of a child under Massachusetts law?

When applied to children, it’s putting a child in grave danger due to negligence of a particular act. In the state of Massachusetts, it usually works under two different legal scenarios. The first is the act of creating the risk, and the second is not doing anything to prevent that risk.

Creating Substantial Risk

The first half of the Massachusetts reckless endangerment law needs to be proven in court before any injury claims may be made. Evidence needs to prove that the person who created the substantial risk to a child under 18 did it in a way that caused severe bodily injury. Those injuries could be from driving recklessly in a vehicle to sexual abuse.

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Isn’t there a law in Massachusetts banning texting while driving?

Additional Information:  I was involved in a automobile accident in Marlboro a few days ago.  The other driver admitted that he was texting on his cell phone when he ran the red light and hit my car.  I was taken to the hospital and have a broken arm, and ribs and will need physical therapy.  Isn’t there a law in Massachusetts banning texting while driving? How will that affect my personal injury case?

Attorney Answer
First, yes there is a law that bans texting and the fact that he was texting is evidence of negligence which is what would have to be proved if you were to recover. The violation of any law such as the texting law goes to the heart of proving that the defendant was negligent and ultimately responsible for your injuries. Also the fact that he ran a red light is also a violation of law and evidence of his negligence.

If I know someone is dealing drugs do I legally have to tell the police?

Additional Information:

I’ve been dating this guy for about 4 months and found out he is dealing drugs. I’ve never been part of any of it, but I suspected it and just recently found out for sure when someone he obviously didn’t know came to his apartment in Boylston and there was an exchange.  I don’t want to get into any trouble and I don’t want him to get in any trouble.  Do I legally have to tell the police what I know?


This is very serious issue and you should definitely not speak to the police who if you provide evidence may also charge you with conspiracy. You should speak to legal counsel who can advise you regarding this matter to avoid legal action against you.  [Read more…]

Can we refuse to press charges so the case goes away?

Additional Information:

My friend and I got into a fight outside a bar in Berlin.  The police witnessed it and arrested us both for assault but neither wants to press charges against the other. So, is there anything we can do, like refuse to press charges so the whole thing goes away?


Unfortunately once the matter is in the Commonwealth’s hands, the District Attorney has the power to decide to prosecute and may do so if he has enough evidence to do so. There are a number of things that you both may do to avoid prosecution but you should speak to an attorney about a possible accord and satisfaction or a decision to invoke the 5th Amendment right not to testify or provide evidence. Under no circumstance should you try to negotiate with the District Attorney without legal counsel. [Read more…]

My 17 year old daughter was arrested for shoplifting. What’s the best way to handle this?

Additional Information:

My 17 year old daughter was caught for shoplifting at the Natick Mall.   She has never been in trouble with the law before and I was shocked she would try to steal a $20 DVD.  I thought it was handled by the store manager, but Natick police got involved and now she has to appear for a hearing.  She’s only 17 and has her whole life ahead of her.  I’d hate for this poor decision to follow her for the rest of her life. What’s the best way to handle this?


I would advise you to hire a criminal attorney familiar with the court system. While shoplifting cases are misdemeanors and it would not be likely to involve any harsh penalty, it would be very important to keep your daughter’s record clean as it may affect her for the rest of her life.  [Read more…]

Should we hire a criminal defense attorney for our son?

Additional Information:

Our son is a freshman in college at a Boston school and was home visiting for the holiday break.  While out with some friends he was arrested by the Sudbury police for possession of a small amount of cocaine. My wife and I want the best possible result for him and are contemplating hiring an attorney to defend him, but we’re not sure if it’s worth it.  Will he just end up with the same type of plea bargain?


Wouldn’t it be a shame to find out years from now that you should have hired an attorney to investigate and determine what defenses might be available to him. I often get calls from individuals who come to me years after the event and try to correct a situation that might have been remedied at the time. You should always hire an attorney when there is a serious charge like drug possession. That attorney would investigate whether your son has valid legal defenses and can advise you regarding the possible ramifications of any plea deal.  [Read more…]

Can you explain the law in MA regarding leaving the scene of an accident?

Additional Information:

My 22-year old daughter was involved in a minor accident in a shopping plaza in Framingham, MA.  She doesn’t know if she caused damage to the parked car she hit.  She left the parking area without leaving her contact information and now she’s wondering what she should do.  Can you please explain the law in this situation and her legal responsibilities? Thanks.


It is a crime to leave the scene after knowingly causing personal injury or property damage. There may be extenuating circumstances and she should contact a lawyer to discuss the facts of her case in order to determine how best to handle any charges that may be pending. [Read more…]

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Massachusetts?

Additional Information:

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Massachusetts? Does it have to do with whether you can go to jail or not if you get convicted or is it some other factor? Thanks.


Generally speaking the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the amount of time one would serve. A felony which is more serious  would be served in a state’s prison. A misdemeanor would be served in a house of correction or a jail. A felony charge would include crimes like murder, rape assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. A misdemeanor charge would include crimes like driving under the influence,larceny under $250.00 and a simple assault. [Read more…]