Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys in Massachusetts and New Hampshire

When your freedom and privileges are at stake, the advice you receive becomes extremely important. Our criminal defense lawyers are available 24/7 to help you with your criminal law matter. With over 40 years of experience, we zealously protect your rights and interests.

We defend men, women and juveniles against a wide range of criminal charges (misdemeanors and felonies), including the following:

  • Drunk Driving: OUI-DUI-DWI
  • Drug Crimes: possession and distribution
  • Theft Crimes: white collar crime, shoplifting, larceny and fraud
  • Assaults and Violent Crimes: sexual assault (rape), physical assault, assault with a weapon
  • Domestic Violence: criminal charges, restraining orders
  • Felonies: including armed robbery, rape, murder, and all crimes punishable by more than 2.5 years in state prison

To discuss your defense in confidence with a skilled attorney, call DiFruscia Law Offices at 978-687-1777.


General Criminal Law FAQs

What does MGLA stand for?

MGLA is the abbreviation for Massachusetts' state laws: Massachusetts General Laws Annotated.

What does RSA stand for?

RSA is the abbreviation for New Hampshire state laws: Revised Statutes Annotated.

What is bail?

Bail is a method of reasonably assuring the court the defendant will not be a flight or safety risk.

  • MGLA Ch. 276 §20D, 42, 42A; RSA Ch. 597
  • Courts generally look at certain criteria when setting bail, including:
    • Any prior criminal record
    • The nature and circumstances of the offense
    • The potential penalty faced by the defendant
    • The defendant's family ties, including children living in the community
    • Property owned in the community
    • Financial resources
    • Employment record
    • History of mental illness
    • Ties to the community, such as reputation and length of residence in the community
    • Any previous failures to appear at court
    • Whether the defendant is a potential danger to others in the community
    • Whether the defendant is already on probation or parole
    • Whether the defendant is already on release pending sentence or appeal for another conviction

What is a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor is any crime punishable by incarceration in a state House of Corrections ("jail") for less than 2.5 years. Misdemeanors include first time OUI's and simple drug possession.

What is a felony?

A felony is any crime punishable by incarceration in state prison for greater than 2.5 years. Felony crimes include murder, armed robbery, and rape.

What is an arraignment?

An arraignment is a formal reading of a charge or charges in the presence of a defendant so that the court knows the defendant know what she or he is charged with. The purpose of an arraignment is to inform the defendant of the charge(s) against them. In response to an arraignment, the defendant will enter a plea. A plea is the defendant's response to the charges and is generally "guilty" or "not guilty."

What is a mandatory sentence?

A mandatory sentence is when court discretion in conferring punishments for certain crimes is limited by law. Generally, this occurs when a person must serve a minimum number of years in prison for a particular crime.


What is an OUI/DWI?

OUI/DWI is the abbreviation for "operating under the influence," or "driving while impaired," respectively. This is the crime of illegally driving while impaired. The driver's "Blood Alcohol Content" (BAC) is the method used to determine if you have been driving while impaired.

  • Massachusetts uses your blood alcohol content (BAC) to determine if you can safely operate a vehicle or are illegally operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol (OUI). The BAC limit for drivers 21 years or older is 0.08%. If you are less than 21 years old, the BAC limit is 0.02%.
  • In New Hampshire, the BAC level for drivers 21+ is 0.08%. For drivers under 21 years old, the BAC level is 0.02%. Commercial drivers are subject to a BAC limit of 0.04%.

What is considered a previous OUI/DWI "offense"?

In Massachusetts, a previous "offense" includes criminal history back to the date the defendant received their license. Unlike Massachusetts, a record of previous offenses for purposes of charging the OUI as a subsequent offense only goes back ten years in New Hampshire.

What are the penalties?

Massachusetts and New Hampshire impose varying penalties depending on the number of prior charges. Here are some of the penalties:

Massachusetts: [MGLA Ch. 90 Sec. 24]

  • First Offense:
    • Not more than 2.5 years imprisonment
    • Max suspension of license for one year, typically 45 days
      • Note: If you are under 21 and found guilty of an OUI, license suspension for a first offense is 120 days.
    • Alcohol Education program
    • Fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5000
    • Potential probation for up to one year
  • Second Offense:
    • Imprisonment for min. of 60 days (30 day mandatory sentence), nor more than 2.5 years
    • License suspension for up to 2 years
    • Fine of not less than $600 nor more than $10,000
    • 7 day treatment program (but waiver if go to facility from court)
    • Alternatives:
      • Confined treatment program (14 days)
      • Probation for up to 2 years
  • Third Offense: felony status
    • Imprisonment for not less than 180 days (150 day mandatory sentence), nor more than 5 years in state prison. Some time may be served in a correctional facility treatment program(s)
    • License suspension for up to 8 years
    • Fine of not less than $1000 nor more than $15,000
  • Fourth Offense: felony status
    • Imprisonment for not less than 2 years (1 year mandatory minimum), nor more than 5 years in state prison
    • License suspension for up to 10 years
    • Fine of not less than $1500 nor more than $25,000

New Hampshire: [RSA 265-A: 18]

  • First Offense:
  • Fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1200
  • The court may suspend your license up to 6 months
  • Required substance abuse screening (completed within 14 days of sentencing)
    • Negative results: 20 hour impaired driver education program
    • Positive results for abuse: substance abuse disorder evaluation
  • Second Offense (prior conviction within the past 10 years):
    • Imprisonment for min. of 60 days, of which 30 days shall be suspended (when prior conviction was within the past 2 years)
      • When prior offense is more than 2 years before current charge: min. 17 days imprisonment, of which 12 days shall be suspended upon the condition of a substance disorder evaluation
    • Fine of not less than $750 nor more than $2000
    • License suspension for at least 2 years
    • Required Impaired Driver Care Management Program
    • Substance abuse evaluation
  • Third Offense (2 prior convictions within the past 10 years):
    • Imprisonment for not less than 6 months, of which 150 days shall be suspended
    • Fine of not less than $750 nor more than $2000
    • License revoked indefinitely and shall not be eligible to petition for reinstatement for at least 5 years
    • Required 28-day residential treatment program
  • Fourth+ Offense (3 prior convictions within the past 10 years): Felony status
    • Imprisonment for not less than 6 months, of which 150 days shall be suspended
    • Fine of not less than $750 nor more than $2000
    • License revoked indefinitely and shall not be eligible to petition for reinstatement for at least 7 years

What factors are considered in assessing an OUI/DUI charge?

Even if your blood alcohol content does not surpass the legal limit (0.08%), an officer may believe your driving skills are impaired if you:

  • Drive too slow or fast
  • Pass improperly
  • Randomly swerve over different lanes
  • Run over curbs
  • Drift over the fog line

Do I need to give the police my license when stopped?

Yes, you must produce both your license and registration.

Do I have to take a field sobriety test if asked?

No. Do not discuss or perform any field sobriety test and insist upon calling your lawyer.

However, in New Hampshire, having a driver's license means you have consented to agree to a sobriety test. You have a right to refuse the sobriety test(s) but will lose your license for 180 days. [RSA 265-A:14]

If I think I can pass a breathalyzer, should I take it?

If you are of the opinion that you could pass a breathalyzer test, call your lawyer before taking it.

What information should I get about the police?

Never be disrespectful to a law enforcement officer. Obtain all information as to what crime they are alleging you may have committed. You should also get names of the officers present and any witnesses.

What do I do if I am arrested?

Only tell the police officer your name, address, and date of birth. Then call your lawyer.

Drug Crimes

What are some common drug offenses?

Possession: it is a crime to knowingly and intentionally have one or more illegal drugs in one's control with the intent to use them for personal use, distribution, or sale. The kind of drug and amount possessed affects the level of punishment for this offense.

Distribution: the illegal selling, transportation, or import of unlawful substances. Drug distribution/transportation is a felony meaning it is a more serious crime than drug possession.

Manufacture + Sales: knowingly and intentionally producing and/or selling any form of illegal substance. This includes illegally prescribing or advertising drugs without a professional license.

What drugs are illegal in Massachusetts and New Hampshire?

A list of illegal drugs in Massachusetts and New Hampshire includes but is not limited to:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ecstasy

What is the penalty for possession of marijuana in Massachusetts and New Hampshire?

Marijuana possession is a civil penalty in Massachusetts. There is a $100 fine for possessing less than 0.5 ounces of the drug. [MGLA Ch. 94C §32L]

It is a crime to knowingly possess marijuana in New Hampshire. Penalties include minimum fine of $350 for a first offense and $500 for a second or subsequent offense. [RSA §318-B:26]

What are the penalties for a drug offense in MA and NH?

Incarceration and fines depend on the drugs and quantities involved, but the penalties are more severe for "distribution" than for "possession" cases.

Do I really need a defense attorney to handle my case?

The penalties for drug offenses, such as distribution and possession, threaten your rights and liberties. For this reason, it is important to consult with an experienced defense attorney who can advocate for your best interests.

Assault & Violent Crimes

What is simple assault?

A person is guilty of simple assault if they: [RSA 631-2:A]

  • Purposely cause bodily injury or unauthorized physical contact to another, or
  • Negligently (carelessly) cause bodily injury to another by means of a deadly weapon
  • In Massachusetts, a person is generally guilty of simple assault if he or she: [MGLA Ch. 265 §13A]
  • Attempts to cause or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or
  • Negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon; or
  • Attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent bodily injury

What is first-degree assault?

In New Hampshire and Massachusetts, a person is generally guilty of assault when he or she:

  • Purposely causes serious bodily injury to another, or
  • Purposely causes serious bodily injury to another by means of a dangerous weapon, or
  • Knowingly causes serious bodily harm to someone of a specially protected class (e.g. young, old, etc)

What is assault and battery?

Assault generally means the threat of an imminent, harmful, and unauthorized contact of one person to another. Battery, generally, refers to the offensive and harmful touching that result in physical injury. These crimes are usually cited together to include the imminent threat and unauthorized contact between two persons that results in serious bodily injury. [RSA 631:1; MGLA 265 §13A]

What does "serious bodily injury" mean?

Massachusetts defines "serious bodily injury" as injury that results in permanent impairment of a bodily part or function, disfigurement, extreme mental anguish, or loss of a limb or organ [MGLA 265 §13A]. Whereas New Hampshire defines "serious bodily injury" as any harm to the body which causes severe, permanent, or protracted loss or impairment to the health or of the function of any part of the body [RSA 625: 11 VI].

What is a "deadly weapon"?

A deadly weapon includes any firearm, knife, or other item that, in the manner it is used, is known to be capable of producing serious bodily injury or death. [RSA 625:11; MA 265 §15A]

What factors will a judge consider in determining my punishment?

As always, a judge will consider the type of crime and the circumstances surrounding the crime when sentencing. For an assault or assault and battery conviction these factors might include the extent of the injury, the individual's relationship with the victim, and any prior criminal record. It is best to consult with a criminal defense attorney to ensure your interests are being advocated and your defense is properly presented.

DISCLAIMER: This does not constitute legal advice and nothing herein establishes an attorney-client relationship. Each case is different and unique. Please note that a small fact can change the above-expressed opinions, along with any current changes in the law.