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The “armed career criminal” charge in Massachusetts law

We used a term in passing in one of our recent Quincy legal issues blog posts that we should pause to define in some detail. The term was “armed career criminal” and has a specific meaning under Massachusetts law, along with specific potential consequences for anyone facing such a charge.

The state’s Armed Career Criminal Statute applies to residents in a couple of possible situations. The first is residents with prior convictions for what Massachusetts law calls “serious drug offenses” — usually, drug crimes like distribution or manufacturing that are punishable by at least 10 years in prison. It also applies in cases of prior convictions for “violent crimes,” which may mean any crime that carries a minimum sentence of one year in prison.

If a defendant has a record of so-called serious drug offenses or violent crimes — or is what our state considers an “armed career criminal” — that person may face a stiffer prison sentence than would otherwise be applicable. One relevant prior conviction could increase the amount of prison time the defendant is facing by anywhere from three to 15 extra years. Two such prior convictions from separate incidents could get an extra 10 to 15 years, and three would garner an additional 15 to 20 years.

When considering one’s criminal defense strategy, the armed career criminal charge is therefore something that needs to be taken into special account, as it arises in part out of past criminal convictions and is only partially based on the allegations in the current case. This information is provided as a general background on Massachusetts criminal law only, and is not intended as specific legal advice.

Source: The 190th Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “Section 10G,” accessed on Jan. 26, 2018