In Massachusetts, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or felony. If the crime that you have been accused of can be punished only by a jail sentence, it is a misdemeanor. If it includes a potential state prison sentence, it is a felony.
The Massachusetts state legislature defines felonies and misdemeanors in the General Laws of Massachusetts under Chapter 274 section 1. Massachusetts’s district and superior courts play an important part in distinguishing between felonies and misdemeanors in this state. The district courts of Massachusetts cannot preside over cases that only have a state prison sentence as punishment upon conviction.
For instance, murder is a felony in Massachusetts per Massachusetts General Laws chapter 265 section 1. If you are convicted, you only can be sentenced to state prison, so only the superior court in Massachusetts can hear the murder case. An attempted murder charge is also a felony in this state, but you can be sentenced to either the house of correction or a state prison.
Massachusetts Felony Laws and Penalties
In Massachusetts, a felony is a crime that may be punished by a state prison sentence up to life in prison. If the law that you are charged with violating has a possible state prison sentence, it is a felony. Common felony charges in Massachusetts include drugs and narcotics possession and trafficking; arson, burglary, armed robbery, murder, attempted murder, rape and sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault and battery.
A misdemeanor in Massachusetts cannot be punished by a state prison term.
Punishments for felonies in Massachusetts include the following:
- Murder: Up to life in prison
- Manslaughter: Up to 20 years in prison
- Robbery: Up to 20 years
- Burglary: Up to 10 years
- Assault and aggravated assault: Up to 15 years
- Illegal weapons: Up to 10 years
Many felonies in this state also are subject to mandatory minimum sentences, including drug trafficking, rape and drug possession.
Massachusetts currently is considering new legislation that would change how they prosecute theft by increasing the dollar amount for which larceny is a felony. Under current state law, property that is worth more than $250 in a larceny case is considered a felony and can result in state prison time. The $250 threshold has been in effect since 1987. If passed, the new law would call for the new felony threshold to be $1500.
Massachusetts Felony Defenses
In Massachusetts as in all states, all people who are accused of a felony are presumed legally to be innocent unless they are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This presumption means the Massachusetts state prosecutor must convince the jury or judge of your guilt, rather than you having to prove your innocence.
It is possible to be charged with a serious felony in Massachusetts and to remain silent and not present any witnesses. If the prosecution does not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it is possible to have the case dismissed. Of course it is common for a criminal defense attorney to present witnesses on your behalf to counteract the case of the state prosecutor.
The types of defenses that can be employed in a Massachusetts felony case depend upon the specific charge and case details. Below are some examples:
- Drug possession: If you are caught in possession of a felony quantity of drugs, you may argue that the drugs do not belong to you. If the drugs are in your car trunk, you may be unaware of them. Or, the police may have broken the law in how they found the drugs and the evidence could be suppressed.
- Murder: If you are accused of murder, it is common to argue the killing was in self defense. Your attorney may argue that your actions were justified because of the other party’s violent or threatening actions.
- Rape: Your attorney could argue that the woman you allegedly raped consented to the sexual activity. Or, you may argue that you had an alibi and it is a case of mistaken identity.
- Assault and battery: Again, it is possible in some cases to argue self defense.
Given the many possible defenses that can be employed depending upon the exact felony and case circumstances, it is important to have your case reviewed by a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with Massachusetts felony law.
Massachusetts Felony Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for a felony charge in Massachusetts depends upon the type of crime. Generally, felonies have a six year statute of limitations, but there are exceptions. Below are some of the most common felonies and the statute of limitations for each:
- Murder: None
- Robbery: 10 years
- Burglary: 6 years
- Kidnapping: 6 years
- Receiving stolen property: 6 years
- Arson: 6 years
- Theft or larceny: 6 years
- Rape and assault with intent to rape: 15 years
- Drug possession and drug trafficking: 6 years
Massachusetts Felony Cases
- Former Powerlifter Charged with Felony in Massachusetts — A former world class powerlifter from Springfield MA is facing a felony assault charge for allegedly making a threat against a homeless man with a knife. Glen Chabot, 48, from Wilbraham, has pleaded not guilty in district court to one count of assault with a deadly weapon. He and the alleged victim were walking in Springfield on Allen Street in late April when they started to argue. Chabot pulled a knife and allegedly chased the victim.
- Massachusetts Woman Sentenced to 17 Years for Murder — A MA woman will spend 17 years in state prison for felony murder related to the slaying of an Oakfield man during a drug-related robbery in 2016. Tia L. Ludwick, 26, pleaded guilty to felony murder and robbery on Feb. 15 in Aroostook County Superior Court in Maine in the death of her 31 year old cousin.
- Woman Indicted on Two Felony Drug Charges in Skowhegan MA – Kristina Pomerleau, who is allegedly the girlfriend of a suspect who has killed police officers, has been indicted by a Somerset County MA grand jury on two separate felony drug charges. She has been charged with unlawful possession of cocaine base and with unlawful furnishing of cocaine. Both of the charges were filed on April 21 in Norridgewock.