70 Arrested in Child Pornography Sting

+++++The U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs enforcement just made a mass arrest of defendants accused of collecting and trading child pornography on the Internet. A five-week federal investigation recently culminated in the arrests of 70 men and one woman.
+++++In connection with the arrests, more than 600 computers, tablets and phones were seized. These are undergoing forensic investigation by the Department of Homeland Security to catalog evidence, and by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children to see if any of the photographs that were recovered are of children who are missing.
+++++Investigators say that more arrests may come after examination of the devices has been completed.
+++++Federal investigators began their investigation after the arrest in January of a police chief who was subsequently charged with knowing possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography. Agents posed as people who wanted to anonymously collect and trade child pornography images, and then obtained Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of those who offered any. The agents then subpoenaed Internet service providers to determine the names and addresses associated with those addresses.
+++++Even though the Internet may seem like an impersonal place where one can avoid scrutiny that is not a safe assumption to make when doing illegal things online. As this case illustrates, law enforcement officials have significant resources to undertake digital forensic investigations, often gathering evidence of criminal conduct before the accused has any idea that he or she is even under suspicion.
+++++Massachusetts residents who have been arrested and accused of Internet crimes need knowledgeable criminal defense representation to make sure that their privacy and other legal rights have not been violated. Such cases involve complicated technological and evidentiary issues, which can a criminal defense attorney can help guide the accused through.
+++++Source: Boston Herald, “Dozens charged in child porn case in NYC area,” Associated Press, May 24, 2014.
+++++Originally posted in Federal Crimes on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Edited by Jack Cunha on August 2016

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Tax-Dollar Priorities: Mass Incarceration or Education?

Spending on Mass Incarceration Far Exceeds Education Outlays

+++++There is an oft-repeated adage that budgets are moral documents, reflecting the values of the people who created them. What does it say, then, that the United States continues to spend more and more money on mass incarceration, locking up its citizens while at the same time cutting funding for higher education? Are Americans more criminal than people elsewhere, or are our priorities and policies badly skewed?
+++++In 1980, approximately 220 of every 100,000 people in the United States were incarcerated. Now, the U.S. incarceration rate is a staggering 716 per 100,000 residents, many times higher than any other country in the world. While we represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, the United States incarcerates around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. In July 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) reported that mass incarceration rates have increased despite large decreases in crime rates of more than 50 percent between 1980 and 2014.
+++++According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of people incarcerated in state and local facilities more than quadrupled, rising from about 490,000 in 1980 to over 2 million in 2014, due in part to the enactment of additional, often lengthy mandatory minimum sentence laws. Approximately one-quarter of these inmates are imprisoned on non-violent drug charges.
+++++During the same period, state spending for public higher education was cut by nearly one-third nationwide. Massachusetts has not been exempt from this trend. Although Massachusetts (-2%) and New Hampshire (-1%) were the only two states in which the rate of increase in per capita corrections spending did not outpace the rate of increase in per-pupil education spending, from 1979-80 to 2012–13 in Massachusetts state and local corrections expenditures rose 63% compared to public PK–12 expenditures. Massachusetts is one of 11 states that spends more on its prison systems than public universities.

Incarceration Brings Life-Long Consequences

+++++Of course, all this prison spending does more than just impact the cost of a public college. It puts a whole population of people at risk of being dependent on the system – or even worse, shuttling in and out of prison – for their entire life. The DOE report notes that “Investments in early childhood education can lead to reduced incarceration later in life, in part through improving educational attainment.”
+++++Going to prison makes it extremely difficult to later gain an economic foothold. According to research by the education group Public Administration, approximately 60 percent of ex-convicts remain unemployed a year after release. By contrast, the unemployment rate among recent college graduates is around 12 percent. The disparity does not stop there: ex-convicts can expect a median income of about $22,000 per year, while the median annual income for college graduates is approximately $55,000.
+++++Many employers simply refuse to hire people who have a criminal conviction, let alone someone who spent time in prison. While employers in Massachusetts generally may not include a question about convictions on an application, beyond that stage they may access criminal record information, including cases continued without a finding but not yet dismissed. Anyone with a criminal record should consider petitioning the courts to seal the record from access by an employer (and the public).
+++++Click here to Learn More about Sealing a Criminal Record
+++++The negative effects of mass incarceration extend well beyond employment and income. In nearly all states, prisoners lose their right to vote. In Massachusetts, that right is restored after release, but many states impose much lengthier bans on felon voting. Some ban felons from voting for life. In addition, many former inmates find it difficult to qualify for food assistance, student loans, visitation time with their children and a whole host of other rights and privileges that most people take for granted.

Are We Creating a Permanent Underclass?

+++++Many worry that the trend toward mass incarceration is creating a second class of citizens destined to lag behind their peers. While some young people head off to college, others from less-fortunate backgrounds get caught up in the cycle of poverty and addiction that so often leads to incarceration. This disparity tends to affect minority communities the most – as of 2007, there were three times as many African-American people living in prisons than in college dorms. The rate for Hispanic Americans was only slightly lower, with 2.7 prisoners for every dormitory resident.
+++++None of this is to say that people who commit serious crimes shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. But, these statistics show that our current trend toward widespread mass incarceration and lengthy prison sentences is not the way to build a better society. A more compassionate model that focuses on providing opportunities to people who might otherwise become entangled in the criminal justice system would prove more effective.
+++++In the meantime, the negative impacts of incarceration make it all the more important for people charged with crimes to vigorously defend their rights. Even if the charge cannot be completely beaten, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to minimize the consequences of a conviction.

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Attorney Jack Cunha | Best Boston Criminal Defense LawyerCunha & Holcomb | Boston Divorce Lawyers | Boston Criminal Defense LawyersOur Boston criminal defense attorneys can help protect your record, or help to seal it.
Please contact our firm at 617-523-4300 to schedule an initial consultation.
+++++One of our attorneys is a native bilingual speaker in Spanish and English, and another is fluent in French.

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Children and the Police

Parents, Children and the Police

+++++If you mention to people that teenagers are more deferential to authority than adults, you get some quizzical looks (especially from parents of teenagers). While teens are by nature headstrong and rebellious, study after study show that when a child under 18 and the police interact, the teen is too easily influenced, particularly if they are being questioned about possible criminal conduct.
+++++Kids want to please, and tend to do or say anything to get out of a stressful situation — like a police interrogation. When it comes to learning values and how to behave, children need parents. When it comes to children and the police, children need a lawyer.
+++++There are numerous cases of teenagers confessing to very serious crimes they did not commit. Clearly, this can be disastrous to their defense. Many teens are locked up for a long time based on false confessions.
+++++Politely — but firmly — decline police requests to question your child, and tell them your lawyer will be in touch.

Learn More – The Right to Remain Silent

Children Receive Additional Protection

+++++The prosecution must meet a heavy burden to demonstrate that any accused knowingly and intelligently waived his privilege against self-incrimination. This burden is even heavier when the accused is under 18, because courts recognize that most juveniles do not understand the significance and protective function of their rights, even when they are read the standard Miranda warnings.
+++++Therefore, “special caution” must be exercised when police present juveniles with the option of waiving their Miranda rights in order to ensure that the juvenile defendant has understood his rights and the consequences of waiving them.
+++++That’s the theory. What’s the practice between children and the police?

Legal Protections When Police Question A Child

+++++To ensure juveniles are protected, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has established a procedure the police should follow when they want to interrogate a child:

  • in the case of juveniles who are under 14, no waiver of the right to remain silent can be effective unless a parent or an interested adult was present, understood the Miranda warnings, and had the opportunity to explain the rights to the child
  • juveniles between 14 and 18 must be afforded the opportunity to consult with an interested adult
  • however, even if this opportunity is not given, a waiver of rights made by a child under 18 may be valid if the circumstances demonstrate a high degree of intelligence, experience, knowledge, or sophistication on the part of the juvenile
+++++The cops aren’t there to help you parent. Or to scare your kid straight. Their job is to bring prosecutions. All too often parents encourage their child to speak to the police, unaware of the consequences. Parents think the police will help them teach or discipline the child. There is no appreciation that the right to remain silent also protects the innocent. Parents are then shocked when the child is arrested, faces severe student discipline, or even charged criminally in adult court. The topper – the child’s statements are used against him or her in court.
+++++Children and the police is a toxic mix.

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Attorney Jack Cunha | Best Boston Criminal Defense LawyerCunha & Holcomb | Boston Divorce Lawyers | Boston Criminal Defense LawyersAttorney Jack Cunha can help protect your child.
Call 617-523-4300 to schedule a consultation. One of our Boston criminal defense lawyers is a native bilingual speaker in Spanish and English. Another is fluent in French.

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Protect Your Innocence — “Take the 5th”

Fifth Amendment Right to Remain Silent

+++++The police want to speak with you — or your child — about some incident or issue. They may advise you of the right to remain silent and cannot tell you not to take the 5th. They are also taught to tell you that being open with them can help resolve the problem, or make it better if you are actually charged. Not true.

Learn More – Children & the Police

+++++There is nothing you can tell a cop that could ever help you. Ever. Statements that hurt you will be admitted at trial against you as exceptions to the hearsay rule. But statements that could help you are hearsay and will not be heard by a jury at trial. Remember, exercising your right to remain silent can never be used against you.

Call A Lawyer As Soon as Possible

+++++Politely decline to speak with the officer, and ask if you are free to leave. If so, leave, and call a lawyer. If you are not free to leave, tell the police you have nothing to say and want a lawyer. Why?

“Any lawyer worth his salt will tell the suspect in no uncertain terms to make no statement to police under any circumstances.”

Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49, 59 (1949) (Justice Robert H. Jackson, who also served as the U.S. Attorney General, and chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials).

Consequences of Speaking With the Police

+++++An example. Investigators want to discuss a financial matter with you. Seeing no harm, you tell them truthfully that you considered the transaction, but dropped out after preliminary discussions. You identify some documents which do not have your name on them. What you do not know is that federal crimes are now suspected. Or, after your involvement, the nature of that transaction changed so as to constitute white collar offenses. More importantly, a wrongdoer now seeking to get a lesser sentence by identifying you as being involved in the scheme, had produced those documents trying to tie you to the transaction. Your truthful assertion of innocence will be used against you to show you corroborated what the liar claimed, at least in part.
+++++Another example. There was a shooting, and the police later ask you questions. Again seeing no harm, you tell them truthfully you were driving nearby, heard shots, and fled from fear of being hit by a stray bullet. What you do not know is that a store video several blocks away caught a license plate of a car racing from the scene. The police then got your photo from the RMV, and a witness mistakenly picked you out as the shooter. Your statement of innocence – admitting being “on” the scene, hearing shots and fleeing – will be used at trial as evidence of your guilt.
+++++As the Supreme Court put it,

“one of the Fifth Amendment’s basic functions is to protect innocent persons who might otherwise be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.”

Grunewald v. United States, 353 U. S. 391, 421 (1957).
+++++Over 25% of the falsely convicted people who were later exonerated by DNA had made a statement that was used against him at trial.

Do Not Be Coerced

+++++Police prey on people who think if they do not “cooperate,” they will be perceived by others as having something to hide, and therefore they must be guilty. Wrong. What you say and what the authorities hear and report are almost always different in important respects, and invariably damaging.
+++++Do not make the fatal mistake of speaking with law enforcement agents – in a large percentage of cases, people are convicted solely based on what they said to the police. No matter how pressured you feel, judges very very rarely determine later that a statement was not voluntarily given.
+++++This injustice is easily avoided — exercise your right to remain silent.

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Attorney Jack Cunha | Best Boston Criminal Defense LawyerCunha & Holcomb | Boston Divorce Lawyers | Boston Criminal Defense LawyersAttorney Jack Cunha can help protect your child.
Call 617-523-4300 to schedule a consultation. One of our Boston criminal defense lawyers is a native bilingual speaker in Spanish and English. Another is fluent in French.

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Defending A Federal Criminal Prosecution

Boston Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

+++++There is a well-known term describing a situation in which you feel trapped, helpless, and confused, with an impending sense of dread, if not doom: “that sinking feeling.” If you are being investigated for federal crimes or accused of any white collar crimes, you have experienced it. You need a federal criminal defense lawyer.
+++++It is understandable being overwhelmed and intimidated up against any criminal charge. But with a federal criminal charge, it is more ominous. You may have already been contacted by federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. If you have already come face to face with federal agents, or their intimidating pressure, and intrusive technology, like wiretaps or video surveillance, you understand the power and resources the feds bring to any investigation. You need help. You need a Boston federal criminal defense lawyer now.
+++++If you have not spoken with federal law enforcement, do not do it. It is a serious, and sometimes fatal mistake. No matter what you say, it will be twisted to hurt you.

Learn More – The Right to Remain Silent

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Attorney Jack Cunha | Best Boston Criminal Defense LawyerCunha & Holcomb | Boston Divorce Lawyers | Boston Criminal Defense LawyersNot just any criminal defense lawyer is up to the challenge of facing down the power of a federal prosecution. You need a law firm expert in federal criminal statutes, federal court procedure, and perhaps the intricacy of federal sentencing law.
+++++When your rights, your freedom and your reputation are on the line, retain an experienced, hard-nosed Boston federal criminal defense lawyer.
+++++Call 617-523-4300 to schedule a consultation. One of our Boston criminal defense lawyers is a native bilingual speaker in Spanish and English, another fluent in French.

Posted August 27, 2014; revised by Attorney Jack Cunha, August 20, 2016.

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