Don’t consent to search of your car or person


Police need to have a good reason to search your car or your person.  If the police have a valid search warrant then they are allowed to search the areas that are specified in the warrant.  However, in most searches of cars and people, police don’t have a warrant because they don’t have time to get a warrant. 

If the police search a person or car without a warrant, they need a legally recognized reason to search.  If the police don’t have a legitimate reason to search, then the court may end up suppressing the evidence that was found. 

The most important thing that a suspected person can do is not to consent to any search.  A lot of people will consent to a search of their person or car because they believe they have no other choice.  What is even more astounding is that many people will consent to the search knowing that there are illegal materials in the car or on their person.

Once a person gives consent, it helps the police greatly.  When a person consents to being searched, the police no longer need a legitimate reason to search.  The police are allowed to search because the person has consented.   The police do not need to warn the suspect that he has the right to refuse to be searched.  The lesson is never consent to a search.  If the police find evidence so be it.  Don’t take away your own rights by consenting to the search and taking away your opportunity to force the police to justify their warrantless search. 

For More Information Please visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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Tough not to get caught-crimes that weren’t so smart. Part I


During my travels you hear a lot of silly stories.  First, I didn’t represent any of these people.  Second, these stories are much better than my imagination can provide.  And finally, if you ever find yourself wanting to violate the law, please reconsider.  Over the next several weeks, I have four crime stories that will make you scratch your head.

Story number 1: Trying to hit the lottery

A suspect breaks the window of a liquor store.  The suspect probably didn’t think about the situation too clearly because blood is found on the window sill.  Either the person cut his or her hand on the window while breaking it, or the broken glass cut the suspect on the way in.  The suspect didn’t wear gloves leaving DNA and finger prints everywhere.

Once inside, the suspect looks for valuable items to take.  The suspect takes some alcohol and rummages through an empty cash register.  Finally, the suspect comes up with a great idea of taking scratch tickets and lottery tickets.  The problem is that the tickets are numbered and once they are cashed in, the police will know what store cashed the winning tickets.  Moreover, most convenience stores will have cameras.

When the person cashed the winning tickets the police had his face on tape.  In the end, the fingerprints were enough to track the person down, but the police were able to retrieve the tape from the store that cashed the scratch ticket.  The suspect gave the police plenty of evidence to find and to later prosecute him.  This definitely wasn’t one of the best thought out crimes.  If you think this story is silly, just wait as the stories get progressively worse.

 

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

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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To plead or not to plead?


This is perhaps one of the most critical decisions on any criminal case. Last week, we talked about why a person would take a plea bargain. This week we aer going to talk about some factors one should consider in making the decision on whether to take a plea bargain.

First of all, a person should never agree to a plea bargain without the help of a defense attorney. This decision will remain with you for the rest of your life and it makes no sense to try to make it without a trained professional. It is fine to look information up on the web and read this blog to be better informed. However, if you need a new transmission for your car, would you do it yourself after reading information about it online?

Alright, so that being said, here is an incomplete list of things one should consider prior to pleading to a case. The potential penalties of the charges are one thing that should be considered by any defendant. One should be aware of what the maximum and potential consequences of the charges verses what the prosecution is offering for a plea bargain.

Another factor that people should consider is the evidence. People should look at what the prosecution has for evidence and how strength of that evidence. This isn’t something that is easy to assess. Most people believe certain aspects of a case are helpful when it isn’t, while others mistakenly believe other parts of a case are useless. This is where an experience attorney can shine and really be helpful to your case.

Finally, people should also consider the collateral consequences to a plea. Some of these consequences include license suspension, immigration issues, loss of financial aid, employment issues, providing DNA samples, GPS monitoring and needing to register as a sex offender. Today, plea bargains are becoming increasingly common, as fewer cases are going to trial. The decision to plead to a case verses demanding a trial is an important decision that shouldn’t be made alone.

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

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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. 

Interes9ted twitter followers please visit- twitter: http://twitter.com/AttorneyChan

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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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What are the lawyers and the judge whispering about over there?


If you have ever sat on a jury, you may notice that there are a lot of side bar conferences.  A side bar conference is essentially a conversation between the lawyers and the judge that is kept away from the jury.  For the most part, jurors hate side bar conferences because they feel as though useful information is being kept from them. 

Side bar conferences may also annoy jurors because it takes time and slows down the trial.  A judge may call a side bar conference at any point.  The lawyers may ask the judge for a side bar conference and it is up to the judge to grant that conference.  If a side bar conference is going to be conducted, both lawyers need to approach the judge’s bench.  If the conversation takes too long, the judge may opt to have a further hearing and ask the jury to step out of the room. 

So what is really going on during a side bar conference?  Well, there is really no one good answer.  Side bar conferences are used to go over a number of issues that are inappropriate to be discussed in front of the jury.  It could be something as simple as how certain evidence or items in the court room should be presented.  A lawyer could be asking the court room to be set up in a certain fashion.  More likely is that the judge is ruling on the rules of law and if certain evidence is allowed to be admitted. 

You may find side bar conferences very annoying.  After all, secrets are no fun, but it is important that you stay patient.  The point of side bar conferences is not to keep relevant information from the jury, but to keep irrelevant information from the jury.  If the jury hears evidence that violate the rules of evidence that can lead to an appeal or a mistrial.  If the court declares a mistrial it could make them restart the case in front of another jury.  Therefore, a little patience for side bar conferences can save the process a lot of time. 

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

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Does what you learn participating in mock trial really work in the real world?


There are many mock trial competitions in Massachusetts. The American Mock Trial Association holds a regional competition every spring for college students in Boston. While the Massachusetts Bar Association has a mock trial program for high school students. These excellent programs do a great job in giving students a solid foundation regarding trial work.

In the past years, I have been a judge for the American Mock Trial Association regional competition usually held at the Suffolk Superior Court. This year, I have had the pleasure to be an attorney coach as part of the Mass. Bar Mock for the Holliston team.

The more I am involved with these mock trial programs, the more I want to encourage people to participate. These programs give students a good idea of what trial work is about a build a good trial work foundation. Mock trial programs are more important than ever because fewer cases are going to trial. That means that young attorneys have fewer opportunities to learn and to actually try cases.

While participating in a mock trial program is not the real thing, there are many things that students can learn about real trial work. A few being the ability to analyze a case, getting to know court room procedure, learning some basic rules of evidence and understand the trial process. Like most lawyers would say, knowing where to stand, how to talk and not panicking is half the battle.

I hope this post will inspire students to participate in mock trial programs. It is a lot of work; however, the pay off can be instrumental to your future success. I myself have never competed in a mock trial program, but have found judging and coaching mock trials wonderful experiences. I would encourage all attorneys to take some time and participate.

Interes9ted twitter followers please visit- twitter: http://twitter.com/AttorneyChan

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:

Holliston Mock Trial Team: http://www.wickedlocal.com/hopkinton/features/x690799802/Students-approach-the-bench

Massachusetts Bar Association Mock Trial Program: http://mocktrial.massbar.org/

American Mock Trial Association http://www.collegemocktrial.org/welcome/welcome.php

Interested in being a judge for the American Mock Trial Association Regional competition in Boston MA? Email: buregionalmocktrial@gmail.com

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

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Could dogs be used in a MA court room soon?


Dogs make great pets and there are many Americans that have these great companions at home. For many years now, dogs have also been used for helping the visually impaired to get around to helping police officers solve crime.

There has been a movement across the country to use dogs in the courtroom. The belief is that a dog can ease the tension there is in a trial or even in a plea setting. Some believe that it can ease the tensions of the adversarial process for everyone. Perhaps  a dog can ease the stress for judges, lawyers, witnesses and jurors.

 There are some aspects that the MA courts will need to deal with prior to adopting the system. One possible issues dealing with allergies. We know that certain people are allergic to dogs and the court would need to ask anyone that would be in the court room if they are allergic to dogs. Another potential hold up is the funding. Someone would need to take care of the dogs and the funding would need to come from somewhere. As we already know, the current fiscal has deeply affected the judicial budget.

Finally, dogs are wonderful and having them in the court room is a wonderful idea. People are uneasy about the court process and tend to be very stressed out during trials. What would be better than to have a friendly pooch to pet and look at? Having dogs in the court room is a great idea, but I wouldn’t count on petting one in a Massachusetts court room any time soon.

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For More information:

Promoting justice through the use of well-trained dogs to provide emotional support for everyone in our criminal justice system http://www.courthousedogs.com/courtroom.html

A comforting canine presence provides victims with a safe harbor By Rebecca Wallick http://www.thebark.com/content/dogscourtroom

Assistance dogs’ use for kids in courtrooms urged http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S1250476.shtml Judge’s dog is friend of the court http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/110756

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

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