Crimes & Punishments

The following section attempts to explain the nature of certain offenses within the criminal justice system. Visit the link below to view the actual Massachusetts statute that you have been charged with violating and see the potential punishments for each crime. Then contact The Law Offices of Thomas G Guiney to schedule your free consultation.

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Appellate and Post Conviction

In an appeal, an appellate court reviews the record of the pre-trial and trial proceedings for legal errors. The record includes the court file, the court reporter’s transcript and the evidence and exhibits introduced in the trial court. In general, an appellate court does not consider information that is not contained in the record.

A post-conviction petition is the general name for what is called a “collateral attack” on a conviction. In federal court, they are called habeas corpus petitions. By using a post-conviction petition, a defendant generally can bring evidence before the reviewing court that was not part of the record on appeal, and in this way raise issues that would otherwise not be reviewed.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is any physical, emotional, sexual or other violence that takes place between people who may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating. Domestic violence can be criminal and include physical assault: hitting, pushing and shoving, etc., sexual abuse: unwanted or forced sexual activity, and stalking. Domestic violence charges can have a serious impact on your life. In Massachusetts, the first step in these cases is usually the seeking of the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) also cause a “stay away order” brought pursuant to MGL c 209A While the issuance of TRO is technically a civil matter, a violation of such an order is a criminal offense and often leads to other criminal charges and potential incarceration for the alleged perpetrator.

Driver’s License Revocation

Typically, a driver’s license will not be revoked for one or even two traffic tickets resulting from a moving violation such as speeding, running a stoplight or stop sign. However, if the offense is extremely reckless and/or if the driver has had previous convictions for moving violations in the past, his or her license may be revoked or suspended. If the driver is charged with drunk driving, reckless driving, or is involved in a hit-and-run, the defendant’s license may be suspended for a year or more.

Driving Under the Influence

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence (it is also commonly referred to as OUI, which stands for Operating Under the Influence) and occurs when someone is operating, or is in actual physical control, of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substance to the extent that their mental faculties are impaired and/or their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is above the legal limit. In Massachusetts, a BAC of .08 or above creates a presumption of intoxication which can be rebutted at trial by a skilled criminal defense attorney. Even for a first offense, penalties can include license suspension, substantial fines, community service, mandatory attendance at a state or RMV approved alcohol education program, mandatory overnight incarceration and the required installation (at the offender’s expense) of a car ignition interlocking device. In addition, a DUI conviction stays on a RMV record for several years, it typically results in higher insurance premiums, and an offender may become ineligible for credit. Plus, a DUI could also jeopardize your employment opportunities.

The 2005 passage of “Melanie’s Law” by the Massachusetts Legislature has dramatically changed the landscape for persons who are charged with alcohol-related motor vehicle offenses. Punishments have been substantially increased for both refusals to take a Breathalyzer Test and convictions of DUI/OUI crimes. Repeat offenders are routinely being given lengthy jail sentences by the Massachusetts Courts for these types of crimes.

Driving with a Suspended License

Driving with a suspended or revoked license is considered a crime, and can result in heavy fines and possible jail time. At worst, it may be considered a felony, and the offender could end up in state prison or with an obligation to perform many hours of community service. The penalties are typically heaviest if the license suspension or revocation was the result of a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OUI/DUI).

Drugs and Narcotics Charges

Drugs and Narcotics laws have tried to keep up with the changing perceptions and real dangers of substance abuse. By 1970, over 55 federal drug laws and countless state laws specified a variety of punitive measures, including life imprisonment and even the death penalty. To clarify the situation, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 repealed, replaced, or updated all previous federal laws concerned with narcotics and all other dangerous drugs.

Most states have laws that give different treatment to possession of different categories of drugs (i.e., prescription drugs, marijuana, crystal methamphetamine), and also make a distinction in the offense charged as to whether a small amount of the drug was found with the defendant (personal use) or a larger amount (intent to sell or distribute, trafficking). A conviction on a drug charge of any magnitude, even a small amount of marijuana, can seriously affect your present and future employment chances, your education, your reputation and your freedom.

Expungement Motions

An expungement of your record results in the extraction and isolation of all records on file with any court correctional facility or law enforcement agency. The records that are expunged include complaints, warrants, arrests reports, commitments, criminal history records, fingerprints and your rap sheet.

Contrary to popular belief, your record is not automatically cleared or expunged with the passage of time. Even if you were never found guilty, an arrest is not expunged unless a court grants your expungement petition. State statutes impose application guidelines and waiting periods for various types of arrests and convictions. The guidelines provide instruction for what can be expunged and set forth certain specific types of offenses that cannot. The guidelines also impose waiting periods that are calculated from the completion of the sentence imposed by the court.

It is important to note that an expungement does not destroy records; it extracts and isolates the records. Under most circumstances, once an expungement has been granted those records cannot be disclosed. A person who has been granted an expungement can respond that he or she has no conviction when asked a question about having a criminal record. Exceptions to this rule include a person seeking a second expungement, a person seeking a conditional discharge, and a person seeking to obtain employment in law enforcement.

One of the most controversial areas of Criminal Law in Massachusetts is the “Criminal Offense Records Information Act”, commonly referred to as CORI. There are currently several different pieces of legislation being debated in the state legislature to reform CORI, as it has, in practice, proven to be too widespread in its use and access to a person’s criminal history by prospective employers severely limits a person’s ability to obtain meaningful employment. Most people do not realize that in Massachusetts, even if you are found Not Guilty of all of the charges brought against you by the Commonwealth, a CORI check by a prospective employer will reveal the fact that you were charged with those crimes! The practical effect to the prospective employee is the same as if you were convicted—you will not get the job! There do exist avenues to have criminal records expunged or sealed in Massachusetts and I can guide you through that process.


Felonies are the most serious crimes that a person can be charged with and include the crimes of: drug and narcotics charges, arson, burglary, armed robbery, murder and/or attempted murder, rape and/or sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault and battery. A felony conviction is a serious matter that can result in a substantial state prison sentences and the potential loss of certain privileges and Constitutional rights of US citizenship, such as the right to possess a firearm or the right to vote. If you are convicted of a felony and are not a citizen of the United States you will face deportation.


In criminal law, fraud is the crime or offense of deliberately deceiving another in order to damage them—usually, to obtain property or services from him or her unjustly. Fraud can be accomplished through the aid of forged objects. In the criminal law of common law jurisdictions it may be called “theft by deception,” “larceny by trick,” “larceny by fraud and deception” or something similar. Fraud can be committed through many methods including mail, wire, phone and the Internet.

Internet Crime

Internet crime is defined as any illegal activity involving one or more components of the Internet such as websites, chat rooms and/or email. Internet crime involves the use of the Internet to communicate false or fraudulent representations to consumers. These crimes may include, but are not limited to, advance-fee schemes, non-delivery of goods or services, computer hacking, phishing, pharming, programming worms, viruses or employment/business opportunity schemes.

Juvenile Court

Juvenile court is unique and should not be treated as if it were adult court for young clients. While the substantive criminal law is the same in juvenile and adult court, the procedures and sentencing law are substantially different. The consequences of a misstep by an attorney inexperienced in juvenile matters can be devastating. For example, contrary to what many parents believe, a juvenile conviction is not removed from a child’s record when he or she turns 18.

Despite the rehabilitative focus of juvenile court, juvenile convictions are counted as criminal history in future cases. They also remain on state criminal records databases and may affect a young person’s ability to enter college, obtain employment, financial aid, a driver’s license or join the military. Additionally, juvenile convictions can result in commitment to a juvenile detention facility or institution for periods ranging from days to months and even years. Worse, in some cases, a child may end up being prosecuted in adult court where the punishment is even more severe.

Juvenile Delinquency

Delinquency is a legal term for criminal behavior carried out by a juvenile. Delinquent behavior is divided into two categories: status offenses and delinquency offenses. Status offenses are those acts which would not be considered offenses if committed by an adult, such as school truancy, running away from home, alcohol possession or use, or curfew violations. Juvenile Delinquency offenses involve destruction or theft of property, commission of violent crimes against persons, illegal weapon possession, or the possession or sale of illegal drugs.


Misdemeanors are more serious than petty offenses, but much less serious than felonies. Misdemeanors typically result in imposition of such punishments as a fine or a jail or house of correction sentences not exceeding two and one-half years.

Serious Violent Crimes and Murder

A violent crime is a behavior by persons, against persons or property that intentionally threatens, attempts or actually inflicts physical harm. The seriousness of the injuries to the victim(s), whether or not guns or other weapons were used and/or whether or not the alleged perpetrator has a criminal record will determine the seriousness of the charge. Violent criminal charges can include: aggravated assault, arson, assault and battery, domestic violence, hate crimes, homicide, larceny, rape, indecent assault and battery, manslaughter, mayhem and murder. Conviction of a felony for  any serious violent crime in Massachusetts exposes a defendant to lengthy state prison sentences of five years to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Sex Crimes

Sex crimes can include such charges as: Child Abuse, Child Pornography, Date Rape, Failure to register (as a Sex Offender), Indecent Exposure, Internet Porn, Lewd Conduct, Marital Rape, Molestation, Obscenity, Pedophilia, Pornography, Prostitution, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sodomy and Statutory Rape. Many sex crimes are considered felonies and require convicted defendants to continually register themselves as publicly recognized sex offenders with the local and state authorities where they live and work. In Massachusetts, the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) is the agency charged with determining if the convicted sex offender will be classified as a Level One, Level Two or Level Three offender. The higher the level assigned, the more restrictive the consequences are for the defendant. Charges of sexual misconduct carry extremely serious penalties and these crimes are commonly punished more severely than any other crime except murder. Sexual misconduct is seldom witnessed by anyone other than the accuser and accused and the risk of conviction of an innocent person is drastically higher in these cases.

If you are charged with a sex crime, you need to be found not guilty! If you are convicted of a sex crime, your life will be ruined—you will be incarcerated and when released you will have to register with SORB. You will be very limited in both career and housing options. These cases must be tried by an attorney who knows how to win them. The Law Offices of Thomas G Guiney has a proven track record of winning cases involving sex crimes.

Traffic Crimes

Traffic crimes are specifically addressed in state statutes. The complex body of law that regulates the operation of motor vehicles on the streets and highways can be difficult to interpret and apply. Examples of traffic crimes include reckless driving, aggressive driving, drag racing, and driving with a suspended license.

White Collar Crimes

High-tech professionals, corporate executives and clergy who are criminally charged for offenses such as corporate theft, counterfeiting, embezzlement, forgery, hacking, fraud, tax evasion or bad checks are often referred to as “white collar” offenders and are prosecuted for white collar crimes. In some cases, first-time offenders are convicted and sent to prison, even with no prior criminal history. An arrest and conviction for one of these crimes can have a serious impact on your life.

For more information please visit The General Laws of Massachusetts.