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Articles Posted in Important SJC Decisions

In a recent Massachusetts SJC decision, Commonwealth v. Morales, the Court confirmed its authority to revoke a defendant’s bail after being out “on release” and had defaulted by not appearing to his pretrial hearing and subsequently committed a new crime. The decision essentially means that when a defendant has a bail set to insure his appearance at a hearing, he is conditionally out “on release”. If the conditions are violated and he is not in custody after defaulting, he is still considered “on release” and therefore bail may be revoked.

The case arose out of Boston Municipal Court, where the trial judge decided that because the defendant defaulted, he was no longer “on release” within the meaning of G. L. c. 276, § 58, and therefore his bail could not be revoked. In August 2014, the defendant was arraigned in the Boston Municipal court on the charge of larceny of property over $250. The defendant was put on notice for bail revocation and was released on personal recognizance. At the subsequent pretrial hearing, the defendant failed to appear and a default warrant was issued. By April 2015, the warrant was still outstanding when the defendant committed a new crime of assault and battery of a family or household member.

During the defendant’s arraignment hearing for the new charge, the Commonwealth filed a motion to revoke the defendant’s bail or recognizance in the larceny matter and also requested bail in the new assault and battery matter. A judge from Boston Municipal Court denied the motion, reasoning that because he defaulted in the prior larceny matter he was no longer “on release” within the meaning of G. L. c. 276, § 58, sixth par. The Commonwealth filed a petition to appeal from the denial of its motion to revoke the defendant’s bail.  The single justice reserved and reported the matter to the full court.  The Massachusetts SJC disagreed with the lower court and remanded the case to county court.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard oral argument in the case of Tirado v. Board of Appeals addressing the issue of whether a CWOF qualifies as a conviction for the purposes of CDL license suspensions. In Souza v. Registrar of Motor Vehicles, 462 Mass. 227 (2012), the SJC held that a CWOF could not count as a conviction for the purposes of calculating subsequent offense license suspensions. The SJC found that because the legislature did not explicitly state that a CWOF was a conviction it could not be used to enhance a license suspension by the RMV. The legislature quickly amended the statute to include CWOF as convictions.

The legislature however, never amended the CDL statute to address whether a CWOF was a conviction for the purposes of CDL license suspensions, leaving the SJC with an issue of great importance for Massachusetts OUI Lawyers.

Under Chapter 90F Section 1, a person is disqualified from holding a CDL license if he or she has certain convictions. The statute defines a conviction as follows:

In Commonwealth v. Crayton, 470 Mass. 228 (2014), the SJC issued an important decision regarding in court identification testimony. The SJC held that if there is no prior identification of the defendant by the witness prior to trial, then an identification for the first time in court is unnecessarily suggestive and the CW must file a motion in limine to admit the in-court identification.

The Court held that an in court identification is suggestive in the same way that a show up identification is and should require the Commonwealth to establish the same foundation to admit the identification. The Court held that it will treat an in court identification without any prior identification as an in-court show up and require the Commonwealth to show good reason for its admission. The Court listed a number of factors that would fall within the “Good Reason” category:

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