One of the most common questions we get from people who’ve been arrested or charged with a crime is Am I Going to Go to Jail?
That is a completely understandable concern. Most people have no idea how the criminal justice system works, and what a typical penalty is if you are convicted of a crime. [Read more…]
Update Thursday 5/25: Attorney Johanna Griffiths was on THE TAKE with Sue O’Connell last night on NECN to discuss the hearing. Check out the video.
Thanks to everyone who turned out at the hearing. There were about a hundred now-former rideshare drivers sharing compelling and heartbreaking stories of how they have been unfairly treated.
Everyone just wants to earn a fair living in a job they love. One fascinating fact was that practically every single driver cited the exact date and moment they found out about the rejection and removal from the system. Unexpectedly losing your livelihood and the ability to provide for your family is a traumatic incident.
Testifying in favor of reform and on behalf of drivers were from Jessica Taylor Lyft and Tom Maguire from Uber, a variety of criminal justice reform groups including the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, Families for Justice as Healing. Speaking against reforms were Boston police officers and a handful of cabbies.
Many drivers shared stories about disqualifying incidents from decades in the past, dating as far back as 50 years ago. And there were also seemingly trivial incidents of license suspension mix-ups due to unpaid fees years in the past that seemingly couldn’t be resolved.
The insanity of the strictness of the background checks was startling. There were drivers who are completely cleared to do work volunteer work with kids, teach sunday school, carry firearms, and even have valid cabbie licenses, yet they can’t pass the ridiculous TNC standards.
Any reasonable due process and administrative discretion in the appeals process would undoubtedly clear many, if not most of these people to drive. Yet no such process exists.
With the amazing number of drivers who turned out to protest unfair rejection, it will be hard for the DPU to not make changes.
Please support Uber/Lyft state background check reform at the hearing before the DPU rideshare board on Tuesday, 5/23/17 10am at the Transportation building. It is at 10 Park Plaza in Boston.
What background check reforms do we want?
- A CWOF (Continuance without a Finding) should not be treated the same as a conviction.
- End the unlimited lookback. Punishing people for things that happened 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years ago is crazy. People make mistakes and they change. No one should be automatically trapped for life by one mistake.
- A seven year look-back for a suspended license is unfair. If a person has a valid license, and meets the other requirements, that is more than sufficient
- A real appeals process implemented with due process and judicial discretion.
Why is the current system unfair?
- It is extremely broad and overreaching. It keeps people from a decent job when there is no legitimate public safety concern.
- It punishes the poor and recently poor. Many people end up with a suspended license simply due to the inability to pay tickets.
- It punishes minorities and the over-policed. The ACLU notes that minority drivers are more likely to have been arrested than white citizens.
- It punishes people who didn’t get or couldn’t afford top notch legal representation. In many cases, if an experienced criminal defense attorney had represented them at the original incident, they could have avoided a conviction (or CWOF) on their record, with a dismissal, a diversion program, or with no charge being issued at a clerk magistrates hearing.
- It betrays the principals of the Massachusetts criminal justice system. A CWOF is not a conviction, and was never intended to be treated as such for the purpose of any background checks.
Update 5/18: Great story in the Globe this morning on this. The Taunton police lieutenant who wrote the post is unapologetic, but Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal of
@LawyersCom_MA correctly notes that cops are effectively mocking people with mental health or substance abuse issues here.
Should the police be cracking jokes and humiliating people they arrest via social media? That’s what happened this week in Taunton, MA.
There was a story that originated from the Taunton Police Department Facebook page about a woman charged for DUI after an accident.
It did have the unusual angle that this woman also happened to have a lizard in her bra. This admittedly odd fact made it clickworthy, so it was picked up by local, regional and then national media. [Read more…]
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced plans for legislation to reform criminal sexting penalties for teens, and, separately, add tougher laws for the release of what is know as “revenge porn”. The bill will be entitled An Act Relative to the Harmful Distribution of Sexually Explicit Visual Material.
In a press release, the Baker Administration emphasizes protecting the most vulnerable and giving prosecutors more appropriate tools and educational programming. As far as the criminal justice side goes:
“Should a case proceed to the juvenile justice system, this bill affords District Attorneys the discretion to decide whether a minor should be charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony. The flexibility provided under this law will help ensure minors that do not belong in the juvenile justice system do not wind up there.”
Left unsaid is exactly why and how a minor who does not belong in the juvenile justice system might otherwise wind up there, other than being charged with a felony that everyone agrees is inappropriate.
Massachusetts still has outdated laws on sending or sharing explicit or nude images or videos via electronic message or text, i.e. sexting”, where a teen can be charged with felony distribution of child pornography. And there is currently no law against “revenge porn”, i.e. maliciously or with reckless disregard allowing consentually created pornographic videos or images to be posted publicly. [Read more…]
In Massachusetts, it is a ticketable offense to text while behind the wheel, under statute G. L. c 90, Sec13B. The penalty is a $100 fine for a first offense.
April is “distracted driving awareness” month in Massachusetts and nationwide. This means there will be increased high-profile media campaigns and news about texting while driving. In addition, many Police departments get extra Federal grants from NHTSA to pay for patrols, and are looking to write citations to raise awareness about texting while driving and other distractions.