Search of cell phone text messages without a warrant


A person has a constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizures.  Essentially every person has a right to privacy under the US constitution.  Now the right to privacy is reduced when a person is arrested or under other circumstances. 

Under these rules, police can’t randomly search people to look for drugs or evidence linking them to crimes.  Police need a legitimate reason to search a person or a warrant.  When a person is arrested, police are allowed to do an inventory of the person’s belongings.  This inventory search may lead to the discovery of illegal materials such as weapons or drugs. 

With the new world of technology, courts across the United States are trying to determine the use of warrantless search on technology.  In California, a court ruled that the police don’t need to obtain a warrant to search the text messages of a suspected drug dealer. 

In the 2007 case, the Defendant was arrested by the police on suspicion of drug dealing.  When the Defendant was arrested the police officer took the suspect’s phone out of his pocket and read the text messages without a warrant.  The court ruled that the police didn’t violate the Defendant’s constitutional right. 

States differ on this subject.  The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that arrested suspects phones can’t be searched without a warrant.  This issue is long from being resolved and may end up being reviewed and ruled on by the US Supreme Court.  Until then, it will be interesting to see how the states rule on this subject and other constitutional issues surrounding technology. 

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Jurors please wait to tweet or be prepared to pay


Jury duty is something that most people don’t look forward to attending.  However, there are certain cases that may receive a lot of press and jurors actually are interested to be apart of the process.  If you are ever chosen to be on a jury, make sure that you follow the rules of the court. 

One of the most important rules the judge will require is for jurors to not talk about the case until it is over.  If a case takes more than one day, most juries are allowed to go home for the night.  In limited situations, juries are kept away from the public and housed in a hotel until the case is over.  Regardless of where the jurors stay, the rule remains the same.  Don’t talk about the case until the case is over.  This includes not talking to fellow members of the jury until it is time for deliberations. 

With technology, it is much easier to make contact with others than ever before. Most people own cell phones, and smart phones allow people to post messages on the web through Facebook and Twitter to thousands of people at a time.  With these conveniences, it takes more of an effort on a juror’s part to not be tempted to talk about the case he or she is currently apart. 

In Detroit, a juror posted a Facebook message talking about the trial.  When the court discovered this, the juror was fined $250 and was required to write an essay on the constitutional rights to a fair trial.  A fair trial, this is what the rule is trying to protect.  If the fine is not enough to deter you from talking to about the case, then imagine it was you on trial and how it would feel to not receive a fair trial.  It is okay to talk to others while the case is pending, just make sure the trial doesn’t enter the conversation.    

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For more information:

http://wwj.cbslocal.com/2010/09/02/juror-who-made-facebook-post-due-in-court/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/24/jurors-using-twitter-jeop_n_332648.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/4998004/Juror-tweeted-on-Twitter-during-trial.html

Lessen your chances of getting pulled over for DUI


It is Labor Day weekend and it is the last opportunity for most people to enjoy a long weekend before the winter.  People are going to pack the highways and the police are going to be out in full force and arresting people for DUI.  The last thing that you want is to be pulled over for DUI.  The best way to avoid a DUI is to not drink and drive.  However, there are other things that you can do to lessen your chances of being pulled over for a DUI. 

 There are obvious DUI signs that a police officer looks for in DUI situations.  Some DUI signs that may lead an officer to suspect a person of a DUI are: the car is weaving, inability to stay within lanes, car accident, failing to obey traffic lights and just driving poorly. 

 However, even if the DUI suspect is driving properly, the DUI suspect may still be pulled over for civil violations.  When the officer approaches the DUI suspect and smells alcohol, the officer may start their DUI investigation.  A person can be pulled over for many civil violations that may lead to a DUI investigation.  Some common violations are rejected inspection stickers, improper window tint and excessive sounds from the car or mufflers. 

In short, it is important not to draw any attention to yourself because your car is not in good working order.  Before you go out make sure that your car is not going to draw unwanted attention from the police.  If you have an expired inspection sticker then don’t drive the car.  Because if you been drinking and get pulled over for a civil violation, it could end up with you being charged with a DUI. 

 To find out more information regarding the different DUI offenses, you can visit the DUI index.  http://www.attorneychan.com/dui/index.html

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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A dollar makes all the difference


As the economy is getting worse, theft rates are going up.  That shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone, but did you know that the cost of the item by a dollar can make a world of difference? 

 In a Massachusetts larceny case, the Commonwealth represented by the prosecutor needs to prove three things.  First, the defendant took and carried away property.  Second, the property was owned by someone else.  And finally, the defendant intended to take and keep the item. 

 Now, the cost of the item is very important when it comes to being the defendant.  If the item taken is worth$250 or more, then a person can be charged with larceny over $250.  If the item is worth $249 or under, then the person is usually charged with larceny under $250. 

 Larceny over $250 is a felony, while the charge of larceny under $250 is considered a misdemeanor.  The burden is on the prosecutor to prove that the item is worth $250 or more. 

 It seems very silly that there is such a difference in the law and potential penalties based on a single dollar.  When the statutes were drafted $250 was a lot of money.  Perhaps the legislature at the time felt as though anyone taking anything worth that much money should be considered a felon.  The reality today is that most people have items that are worth over $250 on their persons.  Most cell phones, Ipods and definitely computers are well over that threshold.  Sometimes one dollar does make all the difference. 

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Tis the season to be road blocks


Summer is here and the weather is going to be great. The Fourth of July makes a wonderful long weekend for everyone. As you go to cookouts and barbecues this weekend, alcohol is a staple for celebration. Just keep in mind that police are out in full force and be prepared for road blocks.

When road blocks are set up, police usually come out in full force. You will usually see several police officers with their flashing cruisers at a road block. The officers at the start of the road block stop traffic and make sure cars are going into the road block in an orderly fashion. These officers also look out for any cars that are trying to turn around and escape detection. If these officers see anyone trying to run, they will usually call for an officer that is sitting in a cruiser to chase the fleeing vehicle.

Other officers stop cars at random, usually every 4th or 5th car and talk to the operator. If the officer stopping cars detect that the operator may be over the limit, the officer then waives the suspected driver to an area for further testing. Cars sent to further testing will find other officers that will ask the suspect several questions and perform field sobriety tests. Finally, there are usually many other police officers assisting in arresting people and securing the area.

If you do see a road block don’t run. By the time you see the road block, the officer in the front of the set up will have seen you. If you run, a cruiser would be sent to stop you. Also let’s face it, if you believe you are under the influence, running away will only make the situation more dangerous. So enjoy your Fourth, but be mindful of those road blocks. Just in case, you may want to put my number in your phone 508-808-8902.

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For more information:

http://www.eagletribune.com/local/x546151264/Police-roadblocks-legal-but-some-question-effectiveness

http://www.patriotledger.com/news/cops_and_courts/x1880507907/Memorial-Day-roadblocks

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A horrible rape of Bunny story in Chelsea


Before you read this story, please beware that it is a horrible story and may be too much for most people. This is a real story that happened in Chelsea MA.

The story starts with a female who owned a rabbit and the defendant was her roommate. The female kept her rabbit in the kitchen in a cage. One day when she came home she saw the defendant quickly throw the rabbit in the cage and ran back into his room.

The female started to look around and noticed that the rabbit wasn’t acting right and she started to look around the apartment. In the bathroom she found blood and fur and immediately decided to call the police.

When the police arrived the defendant had already jumped out of the window and ran away from the scene. The defendant was captured and later charged with bestiality and cruelty against animals. The female brought her rabbit to the vet and had pictures taken of her pet.

Later the defendant was convicted of cruelty against animals and closed this extremely weird case once and for all. The rabbit did go on to live a while longer, however, it has died of natural causes since.

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For more information http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view/20100108chelsea_rabbit_rapist_convicted_of_cruelty/

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Why do people take plea bargains?


 In a plea bargain, essentially the defendant agrees to admit the charges and to receive a certain type of punishment. The punishment itself can vary from a fine, to probation and finally incarceration.

There are certain advantages to pleas that can’t all be covered in this post. However, I will try to cover a few main reasons why defendants decide to plead. First, a defendant will usually get a better deal pleading to a case before trial than if the defendant was found guilty after trial. It is common for the prosecution to recommend probation before trial, but jail time if the person is found guilty at trial. Therefore, many defendants may want to take a plea deal before trial to avoid jail time.

Second, the prosecution may be dismissing some charges in exchange of the defendant agreeing to a plea bargain. There are certain charges that have mandatory jail sentences. That means if you are charged with one of these crimes and convicted at trial, the judge can only sentence you to jail for that specific period of time. In order to avoid serving a minimum mandatory jail sentence a defendant may agree to a plea bargain.

Third, the defendant may just want the case to be over. I hear this all the time and try hard to convince a person not to plead to a case just to get the case over with. Once you plead to a case, it is very difficult to change the result. There are certain situations the case can be reopened, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. Court cases take time and people get impatient. Therefore, some people plead to cases just because they want to get the done. This is an awful reason to plead to a case and one should be careful about pleading just to resolve a case.

Finally, pleading to a case is serious business. It isn’t like impulsively going out to buy something that you can’t afford from the store and deciding to return it the next day. The criminal process is much more difficult and you can’t return a plea based solely on buyer’s remorse.

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Should jurors be concerned over the possible sentence?


It is not uncommon for the jury to have questions for the judge during deliberations.  One very common question is what will happen if the defendant is found guilty on these charges.  One lawyer even told me that the jury asked the question that if they find the defendant guilty, can the judge not send the defendant to jail.  The job of the jury is to weigh the evidence and not to determine the sentence a person should receive. 

So once the verdict comes back, the job of the jury is pretty much over.  Most judges will ask the court officer to escort the jury out before sentencing begins.  For the most part, judges don’t mind the jury being in the room during sentencing.  However, most judges will ask the court officer to escort the jury out prior to sentencing because most jurors want to leave.  Some judges will let the jurors know that they can come back into the court room and sit in the audience if they are curious about what will happen to the defendant.  

Whatever happens or whatever can potentially happen to a defendant isn’t something that juries should be concerned over during the trial.  During the trial, the judge and attorneys take tremendous care to avoid bringing up information regarding potential penalties.  Potential consequences to the defendant are irrelevant information in a criminal trial and could prejudice the defendant or even the prosecution. 

Instead, the jury should focus on the evidence at trial and make a determination on whether the prosecution has met its burden.  So, to answer the question posed in the title, the answer is no.  In any criminal case, the jury usually has enough evidence to stay occupied.  The last thing the jury should concern themselves with is the possible sentences to the charges.
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For More information:

Jury Duty and Courts

http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=mg2subtopic&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Resident&L2=Citizen+Involvement&L3=Jury+Duty+and+Courts&sid=massgov2

This is no CSI


Crime scene investigation has gained incredible popularity in the hearts of people.  It is difficult to turn on the television without seeing at least one show that involves crime scene investigations.  Unfortunately, life hasn’t exactly caught up to the shows just yet. 

 Crime scene shows are very popular because they are very entertaining.  However, the shows are very different than real life practice.  On the show, the crime scene personnel can solve a crime in 60 minutes with the inclusion of commercials.  Finger prints, DNA tests, and other forensic analysis takes seconds to do.  An entire team of people juggle friendship, relationships and work and still find a way to catch the criminal.  The facilities and equipment are top of the line and look like they have never been used before. 

 The shows are entertaining, but are far from how most crime labs operate.  There are certain crime labs that have great equipment and very new facilities, but not all crime labs are in such great shape.  It all starts with the funding.  The crime labs usually aren’t that new.  The crime scene investigators aren’t that well paid and are often overworked.  Because of the amount of cases that need scientific analysis, this usually leads to significant delay in getting results back.  Drug certifications, ballistic reports, finger print and DNA analysis can take several months before the reports are done. 

The lack of funding and amount of work that needs to be done often leads to mistakes. Unlike the shows, real world investigators have to juggle many tasks at one time.  Therefore, the next time you watch a crime scene show, enjoy yourself, but please be mindful that it is just television. 

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Interested in becoming a Facebook fan please visit http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Boston-MA/Law-offices-of-Attorney-Jason-Chan/101494423854?ref=sgm

For More information:

MA Crime labs

http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=eopsterminal&L=3&L0=Home&L1=Public+Safety+Agencies&L2=Massachusetts+State+Police&sid=Eeops&b=terminalcontent&f=msp_feature_2009_msp_feature_entire_state_forensic_lab_system_receives_accreditation&csid=Eeops

 DNA resources in United States

http://www.dna.gov/dna_resources/state_labs

 Former Crime Lab Administrator with Troubling Story http://www.thebostonchannel.com/news/13630969/detail.html

 Boston Globe Story about DNA crime lab still behind in testing

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/11/27/demand_for_dna_testing_outstrips_crime_lab_capacity/

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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The deception of conviction rates


As humans we love to try to make sense of things that aren’t easily definable.  In the world of prosecution, conviction rates are a statistic that a lot of people like to point to as a measure success.  Essentially, the conviction rate is the percentage of cases that are won.  Unfortunately, such a simple number fares poorly in giving an accurate picture of the situation. 

 Most people love to bring up conviction rates because it is a simple metric that most people find easily understandable.  Most people like to point to the higher conviction rates and believe that those offices are doing a better job prosecuting the crimes. 

 However, the conviction rate is deceiving for a lot of reasons.  As much as we would like to be able to quantify the legal process, it is much more of an art form than a scientific process.  In order to garner a higher conviction rate, district attorney offices may only try the cases they know are absolute winners.  Now that doesn’t mean that the DA will definitely win those cases, but those are usually the cases that the DA has the most evidence. 

 If a district attorney’s office is only trying cases that it qualifies are absolute winners, this can lead to several issues.  For one, an office may be giving very lenient plea bargains on cases that may have strong evidence, but aren’t absolute winners.  Second, the DA may try to convincing the alleged victims that certain cases are weaker than they actually are in order to plead the case out.   

Finally, in order for justice to take place the people involved in the system need to make the responsible decisions.  The conviction rate doesn’t tell us if the right thing happened in a case.  Conversely, the conviction rate can actually hinder  the wheels of justice.  In the end, we don’t want our district attorneys to be motivated by any other metric other than doing what is right.   There are a lot of factors that go into determining the outcome of a case.  Conviction rates may have their place, but they are fare poorly in showing the true picture.  

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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