Individual Rights at Issue in Pending Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decision

Massachusetts Criminal / SORB Attorneys have been waiting for an impending decision in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court case Commonwealth v. Tracey Kateley. This complicated case is centered upon the constitutionality of a Lifetime Community Parole sentence if the defendant wasn’t given sufficient notice of the potential penalties they are facing.  The oral argument in the Kateley case took place on December 5, 2011, and the Court’s upcoming decision could have a longstanding effect on individuals’ rights when charged with criminal acts in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Law Regarding Criminal Charges

Massachusetts law states that those facing criminal charges have a right to know the “nature and character” of each crime they are being charged with. Massachusetts’ Rules of Criminal Procedure also provide that a defendant charged with a criminal act may submit a motion asking that the prosecution file a statement of each charge against the defendant, including the time, place, manner or means of each separate charge (known as a “Bill of Particulars.”)

Why Massachusetts Criminal/SORB Attorneys Care About Commonwealth v. Kateley

In the Kateley case, the defendant, Tracey Kateley, was convicted in a lower court of knowingly failing to verify his sex offender registration information.  Kateley argues that he wasn’t given the required notice of his charges, and that the trial court erred in denying his request for a Bill of Particulars. The particular circumstances of the Kateley case are convoluted, but it’s essence is this: Tracey Kateley is a registered sex-offender, and is required by law to adhere to certain standards regarding keeping the state informed of his current contact information and any intent to move. Officers allege that he failed to adhere to his duties in this regard, and that on more than one occasion, he refused to inform an officer of his complete address information.  Kateley’s defense is based upon the failure of the criminal complaint to elaborate on the specific charges and penalties he was facing, as well as the trial court’s denial of his request for a Bill of Particulars.  This is a case that is closely watched by Massachusetts Criminal/SORB Attorneys because of its implications for individuals’ rights, especially those who are facing charges.

Why This Case is Important

Any time there’s a dispute regarding the government’s requirement to follow laws designed to protect individuals’ rights, there’s a lot at stake. In this case, individuals stand to lose (or have reduced) a reasonable requirement implemented to ensure the full disclosure of information regarding criminal charges to those facing them.  This is a broad right that affects those facing various charges, and the lawyers of The Law Offices of Tracy D. Dudevoir are aware of the impact this decision will have on their clients.

The Final Outcome of This Case

The Kately decision was issued by the SJC last Friday.  After reversing the failure to register (FTR) conviction based on insufficient evidence, the court addressed the pleading requirements for community parole supervision for life (CPSL).  Because CPSL is an enhanced penalty, the predicate offense (in this case that the defendant is a level 2 sex offender) must be alleged in the complaint or indictment.  General statutory language does not satisfy the requirements of Article 12.

Note that in footnote 7 the court compares the statutory language in s.178H(a)(3) which  “subjects” a level 2 or 3 sex offender to CPSL with the language in s.178H(a)(1) and (2) which “punishes” a sex offender with CPSL.  “We assume, without deciding, that the provision means mandatory CPSL.”  Because the court did not decide the issue, counsel should continue to seek relief from CPSL under the “discretionary” provisions of 178H(a)(3) where applicable.

Ensure that Your Rights are Protected

Although this case revolves around Massachusetts’ sex-offender reporting requirements, government accountability and individual rights apply in a multitude of other scenarios, including DUI charges. If you’re facing DUI charges in Boston, it’s critical that you’re represented by a qualified  DUI lawyer who can ensure that your personal rights weren’t violated.  Call The Law Offices of Tracy D. Dudevoir today 617-489-9044 to speak with a qualified and experienced DUI attorney.


Leave a Reply