Recently in Drug Offense Category

June 9, 2014

Defense Counsel's Failure to Move to Strike Portion of Expert's Testimony Leads to New Trial

On May 19, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), in Commonwealth v. Sepheus, reversed the conviction of a defendant convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and determined the defendant is entitled to a new trial, because trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to a portion of the Commonwealth's expert's testimony. The portion of the expert's testimony to which counsel did not object was the expert's response to questions counsel asked that allowed the expert to offer his own opinion as to the defendant's guilt.

The defendant was arrested on outstanding warrants in Springfield, MA on September 30, 2009. At the time of the arrest, the defendant was with another man, whom Springfield police observed perform what they believed to be a narcotics transaction. Both the defendant and the other man were arrested. Defendant was found in possession of three small bags of "crack" cocaine, weighing approximately 0.4 grams and packaged individually in the twisted-off corner of a sandwich bag, and $312 in currency. The defendant did not have in his possession a device to ingest the drug.

Continue reading "Defense Counsel's Failure to Move to Strike Portion of Expert's Testimony Leads to New Trial" »

May 12, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Constitutionality of Searches of Arrestees' Cell Phones

On April 29, 2014, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two criminal cases that have asked the Court to determine whether searching a person's cell phone at the time he is arrested is a proper "search incident to arrest," or an unreasonable search that infringes on the arrestee's rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. One of those cases - U.S. v. Wurie - is on appeal from the First Circuit in Massachusetts.

In Wurie, the police arrested the defendant in connection with a drug deal. Among other items that were on the defendant at the time of the arrest, the police seize two cell phones from him. After they were seized, the police observed that one of the cell phones repeatedly received phone calls from a number identified as "my house" on the external caller ID screen. A few minutes later, one police officer opened the cell phone and looked at the defendant's call log. In doing so, the officer observed a photograph of a woman holding a baby, which was set as the phone's wallpaper. The officer then navigated the cell phone to determine what phone number was associated with the calls from "my house."

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March 10, 2014

SJC Announces New Standard for Withdrawal of Guilty Pleas in Cases Involving Annie Dookhan Misconduct

On March 5, 2013, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued its decision in Commonwealth v. Scott, relative to the standard for permitting a criminal defendant to withdraw his guilty plea in cases in which Annie Dookhan, the state forensic drug chemist, was directly involved in the analysis of drug evidence that preceded the defendant's guilty plea. In doing so, the SJC has announced a new standard applicable to guilty pleas to address the hundreds of criminal drug cases that potentially involved Dookhan's misconduct and may have interfered with the proper administration of criminal justice.

The SJC's opinion recounts in detail Dookhan's extensive misconduct and the investigations that exposed it. Dookhan's alleged misconduct, which began as early as 2004 and occurred into 2011, included removing drug samples against lab protocol; forging the initials of evidence officers on lab records; improperly grouping samples from a number of cases together, and reporting results for all sample tests that applied only to a few tests; and intentionally contaminating samples, including turning negative samples into positive samples. Because Dookhan's misconduct seems to have been motivated only by a desire to increase her apparent productivity, Dookhan has been unable to identify those specific cases in which she improperly tested samples or inaccurately reported on tested samples.

Continue reading "SJC Announces New Standard for Withdrawal of Guilty Pleas in Cases Involving Annie Dookhan Misconduct" »

January 6, 2014

Drug Trafficking Conviction Reversed Based Upon Invalid Warrantless Search of Vehicle

In many cases, the evidence obtained against a criminal defendant can and should be suppressed in court, based upon the police's violation of the defendant's constitutional rights in obtaining that evidence. Generally, if the police did not follow constitutional procedure, then a jury may not know about the evidence obtained as a result of the constitutional violation. A recent Massachusetts Appeals Court case illustrates this concept.

In Commonwealth v. Diaz, the defendant was convicted of trafficking cocaine in an amount of 28 grams or more, based upon two packages of cocaine that the police seized from the defendant's vehicle during a warrantless search of the vehicle. Several months prior to his arrest, the police had obtained information from a confidential informant that the defendant sold drugs, including at a building where a business named Family Oil was located, and that he packaged drugs there.

The police observed the defendant's vehicle parked behind the Family Oil building, located on private property, and entered the property. They saw the defendant exit the building and quickly place his jacket into his car and try to go back into the building. The police immediately seized and restrained the defendant. They then entered the building, searched the occupants, and found cocaine on two of them. Returning outside, the police searched the defendant's vehicle, without a warrant to do so, and found two bags of cocaine.

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March 5, 2013

Plea Deal Signed before "Dorsey" Prevents Defendant from Sentence Reduction

When the Supreme Court ruled, by a 5-4 vote, that two men convicted of crack cocaine crimes but sentenced after changes to the Fair Sentencing Act was signed into law were entitled to be sentenced under the more lenient Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), thousands of defendants cheered. And though the U.S. Department of Justice originally took the position that the more lenient sentences under the FSA only applied to crimes committed after August 3, 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the FSA would apply to all sentences handed down after August 3, 2010, regardless of when the crime had been committed. However, according to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, there are still times when the FSA is not applied to post passage sentences.

In Landan v. United States, the defendant was charged with possession of between 50 and 150 grams of crack cocaine. During a plea agreement, the defendant admitted guilt and "waived any right he has to challenge his sentence on direct appeal or in collateral challenge." Before sentencing occurred the FSA was passed. The defendant then appealed his sentence, arguing that that alleging that his ten-year mandatory minimum sentence was misapplied due to the passage of and retroactive application of the FSA.

"The Court agrees that because [petitioner Carlos] Landan was sentenced after August 3, 2010, under the reasoning of Dorsey [v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2321 (2012)] he would no longer be subject to the ten-year mandatory minimum. That analysis is changed, however, by the fact that in this case defendant agreed in writing, as part of his plea deal, to waive his right to appeal." Though "[t]The First Circuit has not ruled as to whether to enforce appeal waivers in cases raising FSA claims post Dorsey, [i]t appears, however, that every federal court that has addressed that issue has enforced the appeal waiver. ... In so ruling, the Second Circuit even noted that the fact that most of the applicable decisions were unpublished or made in summary orders 'underscores the fact that the applicable law is altogether clear."

"Enforcing the appeal waiver is also consistent with the position this Court took at sentencing in this case. After noting that the parties disputed whether the FSA should be applied retroactively, the Court commented that such an argument would apply if there wasn't any plea agreement in this case ... But in this case, it seems to me there is a written plea agreement ... [in which defendant] agreed that the ten-year mandatory minimum applied.

Court declines to overturn defendant's appeal waiver. Defendant's sentence not reduced.

If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers.

February 28, 2013

Defendant Facing Probation Revocation due to a new Criminal Offense is Entitled to Disclosure of Informant's Identity

While on probation, the police used a confidential police informant (CI) to set up a drug buy with the defendant. The informant telephoned the defendant to arrange the transaction then went to meet the defendant. At the meet site, a Marblehead police officer observed the defendant come out of a building, meet up with the CI, sit in an automobile with the CI, then leave the automobile and return to the building. The day after the alleged transaction, the Marblehead police officer wrote a police report describing the incident. A complaint was then issued charging the defendant with two drug offenses and conspiracy to commit drug offenses. The officer also received a warrant for the defendant's arrest. Approximately two weeks after the alleged transaction, the defendant was arrested and taken into custody when he reported to the District Court for a scheduled meeting with his probation officer. Based on the charges against him, and on his failure to pay certain fees, the defendant was served with a notice of probation violation.

The defendant then filed a motion in his criminal case seeking disclosure of the informant's identity. After a hearing, a District Court judge granted the defendant's motion for disclosure. At a subsequent probable cause hearing, the prosecutor indicated that the Commonwealth did not wish to disclose the identity of the confidential informant and moved to dismiss the case. The judge allowed the motion with the defendant's consent. At the defendant's probation revocation hearing, the defendant made a second motion for disclosure of the informant's identity. The defendant argued that the original and identical motion for disclosure had previously been allowed and was understood to apply to both the criminal case and the probation matter predicated on the same alleged conduct. The defendant further contended that disclosure of an informant's identity is required where the informant is an active participant in, and percipient witness to, the alleged offense, and that nondisclosure would violate his due process right to call witnesses and to investigate the case against him.

The judge disagreed, denied the disclosure motion, and found that even without the informant's testimony, there was sufficient information to prove the defendant had violated the terms of his probation by committing a new offense and by failing to pay fees owed. The defendant was ordered two suspended sentences, one for nine months and one for six months, to run concurrently.

On appeal, the probation revocation order was found to be in err. According to the court, "The judge did not take such pertinent, case-specific factors into consideration when ruling on the defendant's motion. Rather than determining whether, in the totality of the circumstances, disclosure was necessary to effectuate the defendant's right to present a defense, the judge denied the motion under the mistaken belief that disclosure is never to be ordered in probation revocation proceedings"

If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers.

February 6, 2013

Tewksbury Motel Owner Successfully Challenges Fed's Attempt to Forfeiture his Property

A Tewksbury, MA motel owner has successfully challenged the federal government's attempt to forfeiture his motel due to drug activity on the motel's premises.

Russell Caswell is the trustee, and one of the beneficiaries, of the Tewksbury Realty Trust which owns the motel. Over a nine year period, the Tewksbury Police Department made eight arrests at the motel which resulted in federal drug convictions.

In November, 2007, the Tewksbury Police Department, sent a letter to area "Hotel/Motel Managers about the increase in motor vehicle thefts in the area and asked the managers to attend a community meeting. Neither the letter, nor during the meeting, was local drug activity discussed. Thereafter, the U.S. filed a Verified Complaint for Forfeiture in Rem seeking the forfeiture of all buildings, appurtenances and improvements on the motel because the motel was "used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, a violation of [the Controlled Substances Act] punishable by more than one year of imprisonment."

Under 21 U.S.C. §881, the government can seize property used to facilitate federal felonies if the owners either knew about the criminal activity or did not do enough to prevent it. While federal law requires property owners to then prove they did not know about the criminal activity or took reasonable steps to prevent it, under Massachusetts law the burden of proof is on the state to prove the property owner knew or should have known about crimes on the premises.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Gail Dein ruled in favor of Mr. Caswell.

According to Judge Dein, "Given the limited number of qualifying drug-related crimes which occurred at the Motel over an extended period of time, the limited evidence of other drug-related crimes, the owner's lack of involvement in any drug-related incidents, the limited amount of drugs involved in each incident, and the fact that the crimes were committed by different transient guests at a property which, by definition, caters to transient guests, this Court concludes that finding a 'substantial connection' would be inconsistent with 'both letter and spirit of the law.' Further, because Mr. Caswell "did not have actual knowledge of the forfeitable drug crimes before or while they were occurring, and there is no evidence that he should have known that they were likely to occur," he met his burden of proving he was an 'innocent owner.'" U.S. v. 434 Main Street.

If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers.

November 1, 2012

Former Drug Lab Employee Malfeasance Could Give 200,000 Convicted Drug Felons a new shot at Freedom - Boston Criminal Defense Attorneys Parker Scheer

For nine years, Annie Dookhan worked at Hinton State Laboratory in Boston, testing drug evidence for criminal cases. During those nine years, the laboratory conducted almost 200 thousand drug tests. Sixty thousand were personally conducted by Dookhan for 34 thousand cases. Now the results of these drug tests, which led to the conviction of some of Boston's most dangerous criminals, are in question. Dookhan admitted she sometimes recorded drug evidence as positive when it was negative. Basically if some samples tested positive, Dookhan would list the whole batch as positive.

Dookhan now faces two counts of obstruction of justice. She also faces one count of falsifying her academic records after her resume to Hinton claimed she earned a Masters degree from the University of Massachusetts.

Over 100 drug defendants from Dookhan's criminal cases have been freed, had their bail reduced, or had their sentences suspended. A drug lab prosecutor, friends with Dookhan, has resigned. A special "drug court" has been set up to oversee "Dookhan defendants." The state's judiciary has asked the governor for almost $9 million to handle legal challenges, while Boston's mayor has asked for $15 million to handle the "crisis". Massachusetts's district attorneys are expected to request at least another $10 million.

"While Dookhan's actions may have led to the conviction of some dangerous and guilty criminals, it may also have resulted in the false incarceration of innocent people. This is unacceptable and will be remedied," stated Boston Criminal Defense Attorney Frank O'Brien, of Parker | Scheer.

"If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, and you believe that the Hinton State Laboratory in Jamaica Plain may have been involved in testing in connection with the case, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers."

October 24, 2012

2011 Sentencing Guidelines for Crack Cocaine Offense do not Give a Convicted Defendant an Automatic Sentence Reduction - Boston Criminal Defense Attorneys Parker Scheer

Court did not err in denying a request to sentence a defendant based on a 2011 sentencing guidelines amendment. United States v. Aponte-Guzmán, 12-1180, US 1st Circuit, Oct. 16, 2012.

In 2011, the Sentencing Commission lowered the advisory guideline ranges for certain crack cocaine offense, which district courts were empowered to apply retroactively, on a case-by-case basis.
In June, 2009, a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Puerto Rico indicted 58 defendants for participating in a massive drug-trafficking enterprise. Defendant Jorge Aponte-Guzmán was named in six substantive counts.
Though Mr. Guzman proclaimed his innocence he changed his plea and entered a guilty plea on two counts: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute various controlled substances (including crack cocaine), and conspiracy to possess firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime. The written plea agreement stipulated that the defendant would be held responsible for at least 150, but less than 500, grams of crack cocaine. The district court accepted the change of plea and adjusted his offense level to 32, which placed him in criminal history category I. Under the sentencing guidelines, Mr. Guzman could be sentenced to between 135 and 168 months. The district court gave him a 150 month prison term, and dismissed the other four counts against Mr. Guzman. Mr. Guzman appealed his sentence after the new guidelines became effective.
On appeal, the court noted that if the district court had found the defendant responsible for 280 or more grams of crack cocaine -- a decision that would have fit comfortably with the drug-quantity stipulation contained in the plea agreement -- the defendant's sentence under the new sentencing guidelines would not have changed at all. This parity would, of course, argue powerfully against the need for a sentence reduction.

If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The Parker | Scheer LLP Criminal Practice Group is led by Boston Criminal Lawyer Francis T. O'Brien Jr. who defends criminal cases in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. Criminal Courts served include Cambridge District Court, Cambridge, MA - Boston Municipal Court, Boston, MA - Brockton District Court, Brockton, MA - Framingham District Court, Framingham, MA. Waltham District Court, Waltham, MA

October 5, 2011

Boston Police Arrest 14 from Dorchester Drug Scene

On September 30th, Boston Narcotic police arrested14 of so-called "impact players" from the violent Dorchester drug scene. The arrests, part of "Operation Independence," included known gang members and associates with violent criminal histories from parts of Dorchester including Bowdoin Street, Geneva Avenue, and Olney Street.

"This action is a message to any individuals engaging in violent activity in our communities," said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, "we will be relentless in our efforts to hold violent perpetrators accountable."

Officers from the Drug Control Unit and Youth Violence Strike Force zeroed in on 18 violent gang members involved in street-level drug dealing who had either been indicted in court, or had complaints sought against them. Boston Mayor Tom Menino said in a press release, "the BPD will not allow the senseless acts of a few individuals to create fear in the lives of Boston residents and families."

The full article can be seen here.

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July 11, 2011

Boston Drug Den Cleaned Out

Boston city workers helped residents of Dorchester breathe a sigh of relief after they cleared out a trash filled vacant lot that housed an old camping trailer that had become a 'drug den' and setting for illegal activity. Darryl T. Smith, assistant commissioner of constituent services at the city's Inspectional Services Department, said cleaning out the lot "gives hope to the community because they had to put up with trash and vagrants."

The trailer was littered with used drug needles, feces, trash, and housed at least two people. It was located in an abandoned lot near Paxton and Harvard streets. The clean up was spurred by repeat complaints to the mayor's Neighborhood Response Team of Dorchester and Mattapan.

Inside the trailer two juveniles had been arrested last week for allegedly using drugs inside. Tyrone Davis, 40, of Boston owns the adjacent property at 8 Paxton Street, and the Cave family of Boston owns the lot in question. Both Davis and the Caves have been charged with related fines.

The full article can be seen here.

Continue reading "Boston Drug Den Cleaned Out" »

September 30, 2010

Anna Nicole Smith's former Lawyer and Doctor are on Trial for Giving her the Drugs that Killed Her.

anna-nicole-smith-and-howard-k-stern.jpgThree years after the famous former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith overdosed on prescription medication, two now stand trial for conspiracy charges in her death. Howard K. Stern (Smith's former lawyer and close friend) and Drs. Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor (Smith's treating physicians) are in trial for "conspiring to prescribe controlled substances to an addict." Prosecutors claim Smith's overdose could have been prevented has she not been given access to a dangerous number of medications. However, prosecutors note that Smith is partially to blame, claiming that in addition to the numerous prescription medications prescribed by her two doctors, Smith may have traded sexual favors for other prescription meds. Under the conspiracy charges, the doctors could lose their licenses and fact up to five years in prison.

One damning piece of evidence is Dr. Kapoor's person journal, in which he wrote "I gave her methadone and valium. Can she ruin me?" This journal entry may evidence both the fact that the doctor prescribed her powerful meds and that he had a guilty conscience about doing so. The trial has been underway since August, and the prosecution is expected to finish its case this week. According to ABC News legal analyst Dana Cole, the basis for the charges is common sense: "You cannot give drugs to a known addict and her whole public perception was that she was a drug-crazed, drug-addicted individual."

In fact, certain pharmacists termed Smith's death "Pharmaceutical Suicide." After an internist approached a pharmacist to fill the model's prescriptions, he refused, warning that the prescriptions were a deadly combination. Her doctors are now facing the charges for ignoring an obvious danger in providing an array of powerful and addictive drugs. Dr. Khristine Eroshevich alone prescribed Smith 11 difference medications, including: two sedatives, 300 tablets of methadone, a muscle relaxer, an anti-inflammatory drug and four bottles of a painkiller nicknamed "hospital heroin."

The trial's outcome is likely to send a message to doctors and pain management patients to proceed carefully under California's strict drug laws. However, Superior Court Judge Robert Perry harshly criticized the prosecution in this case for "overreaching" and has indicated that he will not let some of the more serious charges go to a jury. Judge Perry is looking for evidence that the doctors are responsible for the overdose, not just inference from all the pills being present during her overdose. A defense expert, pain management expert Dr. Perry G. Fine, testified that even though Smith was prescribed 1,500 pills in one month for pain, it did not mean she was an addict - there were clinical factors that had to be considered such as her high tolerance for opiates and sedatives. To that I say yea right - If 1,500 pills in one month doesn't make you an addict, then I don't know what does. However, the law is the law. While common sense may prevail, the Judge had to instruct the jury that "the number of pills is not a determinative factor in the case."

It's surprising to note that the prosecution is planning to finish its case early this week - and so is the defense. The defense team intensely cross-examined every prosecution witness and made a surprise announcement that they will call no further witnesses once the prosecution rests. They say the case against their clients has not been proven. The prosecution has also presented evidence of Dr. Kapoor kissing Smith after riding with her in a gay pride parade to show that the doctor blurred the lines from professional to personal relationship. Judge Perry discourages this evidence however, wanted to focus the conclusion of this trial on two issues: whether Smith was an addict and whether prescriptions were obtained under false names.

Prosecution, Defense rest Cases in Smith Trial

Did Dr. Khristine Eroshevich Prescribe Pharmaceutical Suicide to Anna Nicole Smith

September 22, 2010

Paris Hilton Denied Entry to Japan Airport Just a Day After Pleading Guilty to Drug Charges in Las Vegas Case

On Monday, September 20th, Paris Hilton plead guilty to two misdemeanor cocaine possession charges. In exchange for her plea, she received probation and a one-year suspended sentence. The suspended sentence should come as a wake-up call to the hotel heiress after a host or arrests, stint in jail for an OUI conviction, and other drug charges. In fact, during the plea hearing, the judge warned Hilton that if she does not obey her probation conditions, she will likely land behind bars. Hilton admitted to knowingly possessing the cocaine, and for the sentence the judge dropped the felony possession charges down to misdemeanors as part of the plea agreement. As part of her probation, she must pay over $2,000 in fines, serve 200 hours of community service and complete a mandatory outpatient substance abuse program.

The story of Ms. Hilton gets even more newsworthy when yesterday, on Tuesday September 21st, only a day after her plea deal, Hilton was detained at a Japan airport. At Narita Airport, Japanese immigration officials delayed Hilton's entrance to the country. Under Japanese law, immigration authorities are allowed to deny entry to the country to those who have recently been convicted of drug-related offenses. The policy is both a part of Japan's strict anti-drug laws, and to prevent traveler's possessing drugs from entering the country.

This morning, Japanese officials officially denied Hilton entry to the country, and she was forced to board a plane for a different country. She was scheduled to appear at a news conference in Tokyo to promote her fashion and fragrance line, but this conference is now canceled. This would have been the first appearance on her Asian tour to promote her new stores and lines in Asia. However, both Japan and Malaysia have very strict anti-drug laws which may be an issue for the recently probated heiress. (Hilton is also scheduled to appear in Malaysia and open stores carrying her line in the next few days).

Paris Hilton Pleads Guilty to two Misdemeanor Charges in Cocaine Bust, Gets One Year Probation

Paris Hilton Detained at Airport in Japan

September 15, 2010

Paris Hilton Arrested on Felony Drug Possession Charges in Las Vegas

On August 28, Paris Hilton, the 29-year old Hotel Heiress, was arrested in the swanky Wynn Las Vegas Resort on felony drug possession charges. While driving on down Las Vegas Boulevard, Hilton was pulled over when Las Vegas Metro police believed marijuana smoke was wafting from a black Cadillac Escalade, driven by her boyfriend, Las Vegas nightclub mogul Cy Watts. After being pulled over and being asked to exit the vehicle, Hilton was taken into the hotel "to keep her safe" from the crowds forming outside. According to Metro Police, once inside the hotel, Hilton took a tube of lip balm from her purse. Then a plastic bundle containing a white, powder substance fell from her purse and onto the floor of the Wynn Resort.

This arrest has garnered lots of media coverage, not only due to Hilton's celebrity status, but her inconsistent statements in her defense. Originally, Hilton claimed the purse was not hers, and that she was only borrowing it from a friend. Then, she stated she didn't know cocaine was in there, and that she thought it was gum. So basically, the purse isn't hers, but if it is hers, she didn't know cocaine was inside. Sounds like Hilton is trying to have her coke, "cake," and eat it too.

Hilton and Watts were both arrested and taken into custody. After tests conducted by the Metro police, the substance tested positive as cocaine, but the exact amount of cocaine was not disclosed. After being booked, Hilton was released on her own recognizance. If Hilton is convicted of this drug possession felon, she would likely get probation. However, any violation of her probation could result in one to four years in jail. And with her track record of numerous probation violations, and recent stints in a Los Angeles county jail for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges, the likelihood that Hilton will do hard time for this charge is increased.

These felony drug charges follow a recent history or drug used by the hotel heirness. Just this summer, Hilton was arrested in South Africa after smoking marijuana following the Brazil-Netherlands World Cup match. The case was dropped at a midnight court hearing.

As for Hilton's boyfriend, Watts, he was held pending an upcoming court appearance on a DUI charge. Watts is the managing partner, along with his twin brother, of Tryst Nightclub, the Wynn Las Vegas swanky club.

Paris Hilton Arrested for Cocaine Possession

Paris Hilton Cocaine Defense has "Big Problems"

August 13, 2010

Massachusetts Legislative Drug Sentencing Reform

Beacon Hill.jpg

Beacon Hill, MA - August 1, 2010--In a positive step toward drug sentencing reform in Massachusetts, Governor Patrick and state legislative law makers signed into law part of the Senate-approved bill asking for equal access to parole, work eligibility and work release programs as non-drug offenders.

According to Massachusetts not-for-profit, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), the new law states that "offenders in county Houses of Correction to be eligible for parole after they serve one-half of their sentence (the same as other county prisoners who are eligible for parole), unless one or more 'aggravating factors' apply: they used violence or guns when committing the drug offense, they directed the drug activities of others, or they sold drugs to minors or used minors in drug transactions. The bill applies to those who are currently incarcerated, as well as to those sentenced in the future."

One of at least 15 states, Massachusetts law makers believe re-writing state mandatory drug sentencing laws will address public safety issues and reduce prison costs, as well as support prisoners' rights to parole.