Thursday, October 6, 2016

Is Marijuana Legal for Recreational Use in Massachusetts?

Legalizing Marijuana in Massachusetts

Marijuana Laws in Massachusetts
Legalizing marijuana for recreational use is on this year’s ballot, here in Massachusetts as well as California, Nevada, Arizona and Maine. Question 4 in Massachusetts asks voters to weigh in on their preference for this form of use of marijuana use. Here is a breakdown of the question and the proposed law:

Age restriction:  Recreational use of marneihborijuana would be legal for adults 21 years or older. Unlike the use of alcohol which has no limits on consumption, this law would limit the amount one could possess for recreational use:  one ounce of dried pot or five grams of concentrate in public; an additional nine ounces at home is permitted so long as it’s locked up; gifts of one ounce would be legal

Dispensaries:  With limitations based on the number of liquor stores and local votes, dispensaries would be permitted in any town or city so long as the local municipality approves the same. The first licenses would be issued on January 1, 2018, barring no delays as were experienced with the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries. If the new cannabis commission does not timely issue licenses, existing dispensaries would be authorized to grow, package and sell recreational marijuana.

  Of course the sales will be taxed. At 12%. Revenue would support the Commonwealth, the new commission and the host municipality. Colorado’s tax is almost twice as much. The theory for a more moderate tax here is that the price of the weed would be closer to the street price thereby discouraging illegal sales.

Let your Garden Grow:  Get out your green thumb! Individuals can grow up to six plants at home and households can grow a maximum of 12 plants. Be careful to keep it out of the public eye, however. Fences may be required, but no minimum height has yet been established.

Is pot-tasting in your future?  While recreational use will not be permitted in public, municipalities may permit special-event use. But not within 500 feet of any school.

Labels, labels, labels:  Like all labels, details about the weed will be included:  grower, manufacturer, amount of THC and other ingredients, suggested serving, etc. And the packaging will be “child-proof.” Caution:  avoid synthetic weed. In my criminal defense practice, I see many clients who ingest synthetic weed and, literally, lose their marbles and end up in a mental health facility or jail because they are incoherent and completely unrecognizable to loved ones.

Legal limits: The laws still apply to recreational use and possession. While I appreciate the business, don’t let the passage of this law lead to your violating any laws. You can be charged with possession, OUI drugs and other offenses.

By Kathleen Delaney


Friday, September 2, 2016

Avoid Car Accidents and Injury This Labor day in Massachusetts

Car Accident Lawyer Woburn MALabor Day Weekend is in a Few Days! How to Avoid an Accident While Traveling

As Labor Day quickly approaches, so do plans to make the most out of the last true weekend of summer fun. Labor Day is most often a “road trip” kind of weekend.  This means more vehicles on the road and more accidents. Many accidents occur because drivers are distracted by their phones, passengers and, of course, under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
It is important to be alert and aware of your surroundings while driving this weekend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides simple ways to increase your chances of staying safe on the roads during summer’s last hurrah.

•    Fast lane can leave drivers in trouble. If you consistently drive in the far left lane, you are subject to tailgating by impatient drivers waiting for you to pull over to the right lane. Additionally, drivers in the fast lane have fewer places to maneuver if something unexpected suddenly happens.

•    Avoid night driving. During Labor Day weekend, there will be heavy traffic in the evenings as drivers head home from vacations, barbeques and parties. There will be people on the road who are under the influence, thereby creating precarious driving situations. Not to mention your own fatigue and trouble seeing road hazards.

•    Be aware of other drivers, particularly by observing their cars. If you see a car swerving or otherwise driving erratically, better to steer clear. Also, researchers have found that if a car has a lot of damage, such as multiple scrapes and dents, there is a reason for it: bad driving! Bottom line: Pay attention.

•    Drive sober. This is a self-explanatory piece of wisdom and should not be ignored. Should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being arrested for operating your vehicle while under the influence, it is highly recommended that you contact a reputable, experienced criminal defense attorney in Massachusetts as soon as possible. He or she will explain your legal options and the pros and cons of each one. But BEFORE you get into legal trouble, hurt yourself or others, simply refrain from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Exercise good judgment while driving this weekend and enjoy your Labor Day holiday.

By Tourkantonis & Delaney, PC


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Should I Take The Breathalyzer Test? Massachusetts DUI Laws

Massachusetts OUI Laws

Prior to the enactment of Melanie’s Law, drivers thought it was best to submit to field sobriety tests (FSTs) and a breathalyzer if they were stopped for a suspected OUI. As a result of Melanie’s Law, refusing the breathalyzer results in an automatic 180-day loss of license (LOL) with no eligibility for a hardship license. While this seems harsh, it limits the evidence the Commonwealth / prosecution can use against you at trial. Likewise, invoking your right to an attorney when an officer or trooper begins to question you beyond asking for your license and registration, limits the evidence that WILL BE used against you at trial. For example, officers suspecting a driver of OUI will ask whether you were drinking and/or how much did you drink. If they don’t like your answer, they’ll ask you again. If you answer with anything other than, “With all due respect, officer, I prefer not to answer your questions without my lawyer present,” you will have made admissions, whether truthful or not (e.g., “I only had two beers”), and they WILL BE used against you.

If the arrest is likely to happen by invoking your right to have an attorney present during questioning OR because you’ve honestly answered the officer’s questions, submitted to FSTs and took a breathalyzer, WHY give the Commonwealth evidence that WILL BE used against you? Losing your license for 180 days for invoking your right to an attorney is much cheaper and less risky than giving up evidence that WILL BE used against you and will likely end with a Guilty conviction or one-year probation (which, without an attorney, costs upwards of $2,500!).

Should I Take The Breathalyzer Test?

Since Melanie’s Law, my advice is to NOT take the breathalyzer, submit to FSTs or answer the officer’s questions (except to request an attorney). This way, the Commonwealth has very little, if any, evidence to use against you. With limited evidence to use against you, the matter could be cleared up sooner than later, perhaps even within the 180-day loss of license period. Without evidence to use against you, the Commonwealth / prosecution will likely be unable to proceed at trial and the result could be an outright dismissal. The cost to you? Much less than $2,500 because there will be no trial, no probation services fees, no statutory fines and fees or alcohol education course to pay for. Finding a good criminal lawyer in Massachusetts who is experienced in DUI law can help you fight your case.

Surchargeable Points in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ auto insurance companies and the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) established and control the Safe Driver Insurance Program. The program allows insurance companies to issue surcharges or discounts on insurance premiums based on your driving record. A good driving record means discounts. A bad driving record means surcharges which are imposed for successive years. Your license can be suspended indefinitely if you continue to amount surchargeable events. Surchargeable events include any moving violation for which you are found responsible (e.g., speeding) or convicted (OUI). Also, if your insurance company pays more than $500 to settle a matter, you will be assessed a surcharge.

By Tourkantonis & Delaney, PC


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Clerk Magistrate’s Hearings FAQ's in Massachusetts

Magistrate Hearing MassachusettsShould I Have an Attorney Present at a Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing?

YES! Applications for Criminal Complaints are filed by a police officer or a witness to an alleged crime. The application is reviewed by a clerk magistrate and a hearing is scheduled to determine whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed (outside the purview of a police officer) and whether a criminal complaint should issue.
The alleged defendant will be summoned to the clerk magistrate’s hearing. It is imperative for him or her to have an attorney represent them at the hearing. The role of the attorney is to prevent a criminal complaint from issuing. It is worth investing $1000 or less in an experienced attorney to prevent the complaint from issuing and an entry on your criminal record.
What Happens BEFORE a Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing?

Attorneys Tourkantonis and Delaney will prepare for the hearing by obtaining the police report, meeting with you, talking with witnesses, and investigating the scene of the alleged crime. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers will speak to the police prosecutor before the hearing and ascertain whether they would be in favor of resolving the matter without the complaint issuing. Sometimes the prosecutor will agree to dismiss the application outright or continue the matter for a period of time to make sure the defendant stays out of trouble. Those results are MUCH better than the complaint issuing, and cannot be obtained without experienced representation by attorneys Tourkantonis and Delaney.

What Happens DURING a Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing?

Present at the hearing are the clerk magistrate and police prosecutor and/or witnesses. Nither the prosecutor nor the clerk work for you. They work for the Commonwealth and represent the complaining witness, not you or your interests. The clerk magistrate alone determines whether enough evidence exists to issue a criminal complainant, based on the reading of the report by the police prosecutor or testimony by the witnesses.
At the hearing, an experienced criminal defense lawyer will introduce evidence and/or witnesses and speak on your behalf. Without an attorney, you will be asked questions by the clerk and provide testimony and evidence that WILL be used against you if the complaint issues. Most hearings are recorded. Our clients are always advised to refrain from making any statements to the police, recorded or not.

Without experienced legal representation at these hearings, the criminal complaint usually issues. With experienced legal representation, the clerk and police prosecutor are often persuaded to continue the matter, thereby preventing the charges from being recorded on your criminal record. Once the criminal complaint issues, the criminal charges will appear on the accused’s criminal record and your matter will be added to the court’s trial list.

What is the Cost of Legal Representation at a Clerk Magistrate’s Hearing?

What is the value of preserving your criminal record? What is the value of persuading the clerk magistrate to continue the matter and NOT issue a criminal complaint? What is the value of resolving the issue short of trial? District Court trials cost anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000, depending on the charges. Investing $1,000 in our attorneys to represent you at a hearing is well worth the cost.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys Tourkantonis and Delaney will advocate zealously to ensure the criminal complaint does not issue and to preserve your criminal record. Contact them for a complimentary, initial consultation as soon as you receive notice of a hearing.

By Tourkantonis & Delaney, PC


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

What Happens When Domestic Violence is Involved? Family Law Massachusetts

The term domestic violence is defined as a form of abuse by one partner against the other, be it in a marriage or intimate relationship. Domestic abuse can be physical, verbal, emotional or financial. Divorce can trigger domestic violence events or domestic violence can be the reason behind the filing of divorce. If you are ever in fear of being harmed or threatened to be harmed or believe you suffer from some form of abuse, you should seek immediate assistance from your local police department and/or a mental health professional.

Dealing with Domestic Violence

The victim of domestic violence has many avenues of assistance when trying to file for divorce. There are steps one can take to leave an abusive relationship, protecting the individual as well as the children involved. Work with domestic violence groups to find temporary living solutions while leaving an abusive partner or contact a lawyer to find out what can be done to remove the abuser or yourself and children from the abusive environment.

Temporary restraining orders are one option that can give you a sense of protection from the abuser. You can apply for an abuse prevention order, commonly known as a restraining order or RO, before filing for divorce. The probate and family courts and the district courts have the ability to issue ROs. The standard for removing an abuser from the home is higher in the probate and family court. It is more common to seek an RO from the district court first and later have it modified or extended by the probate and family court.

Protections for Children in Domestic Violence Divorce

Domestic violence involving children will be seriously considered by the courts when issuing custody orders and parenting time. You need an attorney who can emphatically represent to the court the extent of the abuse and the impact it has on the individuals and household. Often, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) becomes involved. The courts rely on DCF reports to determine whether parenting time should be allotted to the abusive parent and/or whether parenting time should be supervised, include overnights, etc.

Domestic Violence Laws in Massachusetts

Domestic violence often includes criminal charges. These are utilized by the probate and family court when determining custody and parenting time issues. Penalties for those prosecuted for domestic violence include attending a certified batterer’s program. This is a mandatory condition of probation if the defendant is found guilty or accepts a continuance without a finding. The defendant’s board of probation record or criminal record (“CORI”) denotes that he or she was charged with a crime of abuse. The probate and family court will consider a party’s CORI, the RO and accompanying affidavit, any DCF reports and statements by the parties’ attorneys when issuing orders relative to divorce proceedings, with or without children. It is imperative to have an attorney represent your interests when domestic violence is alleged.

Kathleen A. Delaney is an experienced family law and criminal defense attorney located in Massachusetts who can assist with issues of divorce, child custody and criminal charges of domestic violence. Contact Attorney Delaney for a complimentary initial consultation to discuss your options and likely outcome of any domestic or criminal matter involving domestic violence.

 By Tourkantonis & Delaney, PC

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Opioid-Based Addiction in Massachusetts

Opioid Laws MassachusettsOpioid-Based Addiction

In Massachusetts and other states and regions, opioid-based addictions have touched nearly every family, employer, community and school. Opioid-based overdoses occur on a daily basis. There were over 1500 opioid-based deaths in 2015. For compelling statistics, read these reports:

Recently, fentanyl has surfaced in the addiction community and is proving to cause more overdoses or deaths. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat people with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to opiates. At first, heroin was cut with fentanyl, but it appears that fentanyl is being sold independent from heroin. Users do not know the difference as the appearance of the two is similar.

The Addiction Process

Opioid-based addictions often occur as a result of the use of prescribed medications for pain management, usually after someone undergoes surgery. These medications include, but are not limited to, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone/acetaminophen, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, and naloxone. Since prescriptions are limited, users often turn to purchasing pills on the street and subsequently, when they become too expensive, turn to heroin/fentanyl. Most users do not begin use heroin/fentanyl intravenously, but rather will snort or smoke the drug. Intravenous use, however, is almost always likely to follow.
The afflicted come from all walks of life. Opioid-based addiction does not discriminate. Gender, age, social status, education, employment do not matter. Addiction leads to loss of friends, family, employment, housing, finances and, in the worst-case scenarios, liberty. Most users use more to prevent illness (detoxification without supervision can be deadly) and less to ‘get high.’

If you or a family member, co-worker, classmate or friend suffers from this addiction, which is an illness and a disease, you may be able to help:

•    Get professional help from a doctor.
•    Enroll in long-term treatment that includes medically-supervised detoxification.
•    Join a support group.
•    Consider civil commitment under MGL c.123, s.35.
•    If criminal defense is necessary, be sure to have competent legal representation.

By Tourkantonis  & Delaney PC