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Articles Posted in misdemeanor offenses

As a result of the increasing difficulties former defendants in criminal prosecutions are facing in obtaining employment and housing because of their criminal records, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently ruled to lessen the legal burden on former defendants who wish to have their criminal records sealed after an entry of nolle prosequi or dismissal. This decision effectively opens the door for more individuals to seal their past criminal records, thereby preventing most employers and landlords from accessing their criminal information, and creating more opportunity for obtaining gainful employment and comfortable housing.

In the matter of Commonwealth v. Peter Pon, the defendant was charged with an OUI and leaving the scene of property damage following an accident. After admitting to the facts alleged by the Commonwealth, a Boston Municipal Court judge ordered that the case be continued without a finding for one year and a 45-day license suspension. Since the defendant complied with the conditions of the continuance, his case was subsequently dismissed but a judge denied the defendant’s petition that his records be sealed in order to prevent any employment or housing discrimination resulting from his criminal history. Although the Commissioner of Probation ultimately sealed the records before the Supreme Judicial Court issued its ruling on appeal, the Court nonetheless used this case to reconsider the current law on criminal record sealing and impoundment.

The OLD Standard for determining whether to seal records

In two cases decided on June 15, 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court interpreted the resisting arrest statute of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 268 Section 32B. The two cases were Commonwealth v. Quintos Q, involving a juvenile and Commonwealth v. Montoya.

In Montoya, police officers testified at trial that they saw the defendant fire three gunshots. The officers intended to take the defendant into custody, but the defendant fled on a bicycle. The defendant stopped and ran behind some stairs, was ordered to stop by the police, but continued to flee.

The defendant ran and jumped over a fence only to land in a canal. The officers did not follow the defendant over the fence but told him he was under arrest and the defendant made no further attempts to flee the police.

Under Massachusetts law, the Commonwealth must prove the following to obtain a conviction of resisting arrest. A person commits the crime of resisting arrest by knowingly preventing an officer from making an arrest or by using any other means that create a risk of substantial bodily injury to the police officer or another.

Monotoya’s Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer argued that since the police officer did not follow the defendant over the fence, that the defendant cannot be convicted of resisting arrest because his actions did not create a risk of substantial bodily injury to the officer.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rejected this argument holding that the officers did not have to be exposed to the risk as long as the defendant created the risk of bodily injury to the officers. The court held that the trial judge properly denied the defense lawyer’s motions for required finding of not guilty as there was enough evidence for the defendant to be convicted of resisting arrest.

The second resisting arrest case, Quintos Q, involved a similar set of circumstances as Montoya. The defendant in Quintos Q, was a passenger in a car that was being followed by the police. The driver attempted to get away from the police, but crashed the car, at which time the defendant and the driver ran. The officer never had time to say anything to the defendant. Finally, another officer saw the defendant trying to climb a wall and yelled stop police. The defendant did not attempt to flee further as he was cornered.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court held that the defendant was not under arrest until he was cornered, trying to climb the wall. The court found that the officers never communicated to the defendant an intent to make an arrest. Accordingly, the SJC reversed the juvenile delinquency conviction.
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