Massachusetts Sexting Reform and New Revenge Porn Law Proposed

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. 

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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Massachusetts still has outdated laws on sending or sharing explicit or nude images or videos via electronic message or text, i.e. sexting”, where a teen can be charged with felony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…]

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Distracted Driving Laws in Massachusetts

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.

Any electronic messaging via a mobile device, including texting, reading or composing an email, or internet access or communication via phone is not allowed by law. [Read more…]

Background Checks for Uber/Lyft Drivers Mean Fewer Drivers and Unexpected Job Loss

Update 4/21/17: Gov Baker made some very misleading comments about the rideshare rejection appeals process, noted in the Boston Business Journal here. The DPU has stated that 455 of 1472 appeals have been granted, however these are almost entirely appeals of “discretionary disqualifications”, and not anyone who failed because of the automatic conditional appeals. What people want and need is a way to appeal the license suspension from 5 years ago, or the 2 cwofs from 20 years ago, and explain their situation. Those appeals are still not even heard.

Update 4/17/17:  Attorney Johanna Griffiths was on @WBZNightside   4/17 talking rideshare criminal background checks. Here is the link to listen.

Update 4/13/17: More press today from the Globe. There are a few interesting nuggets in here:

  • Unconfirmed story of a record seal fixing a CORI background check problem, but details are limited. The story sounds pretty fishy unfortunately, and does not agree with what we understand about the sealing process and the DPU access to supersede that.
  • Hints that hearings and reform may be coming. Hearings are supposedly scheduled for May 23rd at 10am at the Transportation Building in Boston (10 park plaza). Public comments through June 9th. More details to follow.
  • Gov Baker is quoted as not previously understanding that a suspended license from 6 years ago is not appealable, and is seemingly open to allowing that.
  • Same with Mayor Carlo DeMaria of Everett. They are both definitely in the tough background checks camp, but express sympathy towards minor issues caught up. So there may be some room for negotiation if the hard liners are amenable. Stay tuned.

Update 4/7/17:  This story was covered on Channel 7 News Boston, and attorney Johanna Griffiths of the Law Offices of Russell Matson was interviewed. Over 8000 (our of 71,000) drivers rejected on strict background checks.

Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to help drivers with this issue, but we are hoping that media attention will bring changes to the background check strictness.

A new background check requirement for rideshare drivers (Uber/Lyft) in Massachusetts is having serious and unexpected consequences for drivers without a perfect driving record, or with some very minor or old criminal incidents. The standards being applied are extraordinarily strict and include non-conviction continuances, which were never meant to follow you for years or decades.

We’ve had quite a few calls from drivers who are shocked to learn they failed the check and are now out of a job. The Commonwealth has pledged to review every ride-hailing drivers background check under this new standard by April 3, 2017, and follow up with routine rechecks of drivers every six months to catch new incidents.

Governor Baker’s stated goal is to make this strict new checks “the most comprehensive in the country”.

But do they go too far? Are we limiting the ability to get work of people with minor incidents from many years in their past? [Read more…]

Providing Alcohol to Minors Law in Massachusetts – “Social Host”

It is illegal for adults to provide, supply, or furnish alcohol to anyone under age (under 21), and also to knowingly allow underage drinking in one’s home. This article from the Globe a few years ago discusses Massachusetts’ little known and poorly understood “social host” laws against adults allowing minors to drink alcohol on their property, in addition to laws against them actually supplying alcohol.

The charges can be pretty clear cut if parents or adults actually directly provided alcohol to underage kids, but things get complicated if the police don’t know, and the Commonwealth can’t prove that adults were aware of the party & drinking going on. For example, if the parents were away, or kids were drinking in the basement and the parents didn’t know they had access to alcohol, that could be a legitimate legal defense. [Read more…]

Tougher Suspended License Laws Proposed After Motor Vehicle Homicide

The father of a victim who was struck and killed by a man who was driving on a suspended license is hoping to toughen laws and enforcement mechanisms to keep dangerous drivers off the road.

Marc Cremer testified before the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee on Bill H.4098, which would increase the maximum sentence for vehicular homicide while driving on a suspended license to 15 years in prison for chronic offenders of driving on a suspended license.

The law would not impact cases where a license suspension was initiated by parking tickets, civil violations, or RMV issues, it would apply only in cases of suspension after a criminal offense.
[Read more…]