Unlike many states, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not break down its crimes into classifications — Class C misdemeanor, Class 2 felony, etc. Instead, most offenses carry with them a maximum sentence that gives the judge discretion in deciding the time to be served, if any, although some also carry minimum sentences. A felony is any crime that mandates state prison time as opposed to county jail time, which is sometimes the penalty for a misdemeanor.
If you’re under investigation or have been charged with a crime in or around Springfield or anywhere throughout Western or Central Massachusetts, you need strong and passionate legal counsel and representation. Your first instinct may be to go with a public defender, but public defenders routinely juggle several cases at once and will often opt for a plea bargain rather than fighting for dismissal or a reduction in the charge.
When you face criminal proceedings, contact me at the Law Office of Joseph A. Pacella. After previously working as a prosecutor, I have been fighting for the rights of my clients for more than 20 years. I know how the other side thinks and operates, and I can help you craft a defense strategy with the best odds of achieving a favorable outcome.
As mentioned above, Massachusetts does not impose a hierarchy of misdemeanor or felony offenses. Instead, each crime carries with it a maximum jail or prison sentence, which the judge cannot exceed. Some laws also carry minimum incarceration penalties.
A misdemeanor generally calls for either jail time and/or a maximum fine. While many states limit misdemeanors to a year in jail, some misdemeanors in Massachusetts can be punished by up to 30 months, plus potential fines.
For instance, assault or assault and battery that does not result in serious injury calls for a maximum sentence of 30 months of incarceration and/or a fine of $1,000. The judge can impose one or both up to the maximum of each.
A DUI conviction can land you in jail for up to 30 months and/or result in a fine of between $500 and $5,000.
Theft, called larceny in Massachusetts, is punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine of $1,500 if the value of the property stolen is $1,200 or less (and is not a firearm).
What separates a felony from a misdemeanor is that the offense mandates time in state prison — or even the death penalty. All felonies carry maximum prison penalties, but some also include minimum sentencing requirements. If you’re convicted of a felony, however, the judge will issue what is called an “indeterminate” sentence, meaning it will include both minimum and maximum incarceration requirements.
Some felonies permit the judge to order the convicted person to alternative sentencing in county jail or a house of corrections for no longer than 30 months. Assault and battery that results in serious bodily injury is one such offense that allows for jail instead of prison.
Examples of felony sentences include:
Theft, or larceny, of a gun or property valued at more than $1,200: Up to five years in prison or up to two years in county jail with a maximum $2,500 fine.
Rape that doesn’t result in serious bodily injury but involves a threat of force: Up to 20 years in prison.
Murder in the first degree: Life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Massachusetts criminal statutes give the judge leeway in imposing alternatives to prison time. One such alternative is a suspended sentence, which generally involves reducing or eliminating prison time while placing the defendant on probation with certain conditions to be met. If the conditions are violated, the prison term is reimposed.
Another alternative is what’s called a conditional sentence. For felonies that are punishable by fines or imprisonment, the judge may order the defendant to pay the fine within a certain amount of time. Failing to do so will trigger the incarceration option.
Generally, all inmates in state prison are eligible for parole after 18 months, at which time they may be allowed to participate in work, education, and training programs outside of prison to complete their sentence.
If you disagree with the sentence handed down, it is possible to appeal the verdict to a higher court for review. However, the appeal must hinge on legal errors, jury misconduct, insufficient or tainted evidence, and the like. In other words, the reason cannot simply be that you got that higher end of the maximum sentence unless you can show that something happened in court that was prejudicial to your case.
You have 30 days after conviction to file a notice of appeal. The Massachusetts Appeals Court — or the State Supreme Court for first-degree murder convictions — will review the brief that your attorney must file, along with the prosecutor’s counter-brief and the proceedings of the lower court, to weigh whether you have a legitimate basis for an appeal.
A criminal conviction, even a misdemeanor, can have serious lifelong implications. You may find it difficult to obtain professional licensing or even to secure a job that you’re otherwise qualified for. And this is to say nothing of the time you may have to spend incarcerated at the county or state level, or the conditions imposed upon you so you can return to a semblance of your normal life.
When facing a criminal investigation or an actual charge, you need an attorney who understands the Massachusetts criminal justice process. As a former prosecutor, I know how overzealous police officers or investigators can use questionable, or borderline illegal, tactics to secure evidence against you. We can challenge that evidence in court to get it suppressed or thrown out. At all times, I will protect your rights and work aggressively toward the most favorable outcome.
If you’re facing criminal charges in Springfield or anywhere in Western or Central Massachusetts, contact me immediately at the Law Office of Joseph M. Pacella. You don’t want to rely on an overworked public defender. I’ll stand with you the whole way. Reach out to me to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case and start building your defense.