If you are convicted of a crime in Massachusetts, your punishment could include a term of incarceration. If a judge determines that you must serve time, they will look into your criminal history to determine how long you spend behind bars. A person with a prior criminal record is more likely to be sentenced to a longer term of incarceration than someone who is a first-time offender.
In Massachusetts, there are special rules for punishing a person who is an Armed Career Criminal (ACC). In this post, we will look at what an ACC is and for how long one can be punished. Stay up to date with the latest news in Massachusetts’ criminal law by following The Law Office of William J. Barabino’s official blog.
What does it mean to be a career criminal?
In 1998, the Massachusetts government passed a law called the Armed Career Criminal Act, under General Laws Chapter 269, Section 10G. This law allows judges to increase penalties for people who have been previously convicted of one of these two things:
In other words, if the court determines that you are an ACC this means they can punish you more than they otherwise could. There are three different levels of being punished as an ACC. They are:
- ACC Level 1: extra punishment of between 3-15 years in state prison
- ACC Level 2: extra punishment of between 10-15 years in state prison
- ACC Level 3: extra punishment of between 15-20 years in state prison
Keep in mind that these punishments are applied in addition to what you were originally sentenced to receive. Given how long these extra prison terms could be, being convicted as an ACC will significantly increase the amount of time you spend behind bars.
What is considered violent criminal activity?
A violent crime is a crime punishable by a prison term of more than one year. This does not mean you had to have been punished this long, just that the maximum possible punishment was more than a year.
Additionally, the ACC statute specifically says that the crime must also meet one of four other conditions to be a violent crime:
- The crime involved attempted or threatened use of physical force or a deadly weapon against someone else
- The crime was burglary, extortion, arson, or kidnapping
- The crime involved using explosives
- The crime involves conduct that presented serious risk of physical injury to someone else
The Massachusetts Supreme Court specifically looked at what crimes are violent crimes in a case from last year called Commonwealth vs. Ezara Wentworth. In this case, the defendant was challenging the application of the ACC law to the crimes he committed, which involved firearms offenses and a police chase. The defendant was specifically challenging if assault and battery could be a violent crime. The court disagreed with the accused and stated that even assault and battery could be a violent crime in some circumstances.
What is considered a serious drug offense?
Generally speaking, a serious drug offense is a crime that involves the manufacturing, distribution, or possession with the intent to distribute of a controlled substance with a term of imprisonment of at least 10 years or more.
A serious drug offenses includes almost any prior drug conviction. Even pleading guilty to a drug charge in district court could count. However, a simple possession charge does not rise to this level because manufacturing and distributing typically need to occur.
What does habitual criminal mean?
In order to be considered as an ACC, the government must establish that the convicted person was a “habitual criminal.” This means the prosecution must provide three or more examples of what are called predicate offenses. A predicate offense is just another way of saying a prior crime that is part of a larger crime. For the ACC law, this means previous crimes that were either violent or a serious drug offense.
In the Wentworth case, the defendant also challenged his ACC status by making the argument that his indictment (the notice of the criminal charges) did not list three specific instances of predicate offenses. The court determined that the notice of the charges does not need to specifically list the offenses as long as it makes clear that ACC status requires three different offenses.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE COMMITTED A VIOLENT CRIME, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.