You may be feeling anxious if you are facing criminal charges in Massachusetts. That anxiety might be amplified for anyone with little to no knowledge of their local criminal justice system.
Read on to learn about different aspects of criminal law in Massachusetts, including Massachusetts DUI laws, the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, and suggestions to help empower you as you choose your criminal defense attorney.
How does the state of Massachusetts define different criminal classifications or levels of criminal offenses? Simply put, crimes are put into certain categories according to severity and length of punishment. Felonies are punishable by a minimum one-year jail sentence. All other crimes are misdemeanors by default.
Misdemeanors are classified by level in Massachusetts. Any criminal action with a maximum statutory penalty of imprisonment of at least six months is a level two misdemeanor. Any crime with a maximum sentence of six months behind bars or less is a level one misdemeanor.
Examples of common misdemeanor crimes include:
According to the state’s criminal justice code, a felony charge applies to any crimes for which the statute mandates a minimum prison sentence of one year. Any earlier convictions on a criminal record may result in more substantial penalties for current or future criminal issues.
Examples of common felony crimes include:
First-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole. Massachusetts does not have a death penalty.
Massachusetts residents pulled over and arrested on drunk driving charges could face a wide variety of punishments if convicted. Penalties will range in severity depending on a few factors, including the nature of the arrest and the number of criminal offenses on record.
State law says that drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08% or higher are too drunk to drive. The law is more strict for those under 21. It applies a threshold BAC of .02%, and a violation will likely result in criminal charges. Massachusetts refers to a drunk driving or impaired driving charge as operating under the influence (OUI). Other states use the terms driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) to refer to drivers operating a motor vehicle while drunk.
An OUI refers to more than just the influence of alcohol. A police officer may charge a driver with an OUI if the officer suspects impaired driving resulting from mood-altering or behavior-altering substances, including glue vapors, stimulants, and depressants.
Drivers should know that any prior OUI convictions will remain on your permanent driving record under its “look-back law.” Previous penalties may increase the severity of penalties applied for current OUI charges. A driver convicted of a misdemeanor first offense OUI, for example, may face:
Drunk drivers convicted of a felony third offense OUI face a mandatory minimum of 150 days in a state prison with a maximum of five years, and fines ranging from $1,000 to $15,000.
Is marijuana use, possession, and cultivation legal in the state of Massachusetts? Under Massachusetts state law, anyone 21 and older can have up to one ounce on their person and up to 10 ounces at home for personal use. However, marijuana is still considered to be a controlled substance under federal law and, therefore, is still illegal under federal law.
According to state law in Massachusetts:
Understanding what is legal and what is not when it comes to marijuana use and possession can help you protect yourself against criminal charges and avoiding a potential criminal record.
You are likely in search of a criminal defense lawyer if you are facing charges for one or more criminal offenses. Most people need to decide on a criminal lawyer quickly, so it may help you feel more confident during your search to have a few guidelines. Consider the following questions when researching each law firm on your radar:
Learning about issues specific to Massachusetts criminal defense can help ease any anxieties, as what you learn may help you feel more engaged and prepared. Whether you are in Worcester County or Suffolk County, Framingham, Quincy, or Boston, you can find the Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney who is ready to take your case and defend you against your criminal charges.
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights, lay out your options, and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense and limiting potential penalties.