Friday, December 31, 2010

New Bicycle Law Effective Tomorrow

MGL c.85, § 11E, governing traffic citations for bicyclists, becomes effective on January 1, 2011. The law provides:
  • A cyclist stopped by a police officer must give his name and address.
  • A police officer witnessing a traffic violation by a cyclist should use the same procedure (MGL c.90C) in issuing a citation as that for motor vehicles.
  • A citation issued will not affect a cyclist's driving record.
  • If a cyclist is under 16, the notice may be given to the parent or guardian.
For more information on bicycle laws, see our Mass. Law About Bicycles.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Library Services today

The snow is making for a challenging day. All courts are closed until noon today. We will not be offering online chat service, but feel free to send questions by email, and we will answer them when our staff members are able to get in. Please call ahead before visiting one of our libraries, because conditions can vary quite a bit from one community to another. We're sorry for the inconvenience!

Friday, December 24, 2010

We Had to Look It Up

Today's Boston Globe includes an article on people who "harvest" deer killed in accidents, and includes the statement "Massachusetts law requires that the driver of the car get first dibs on the deer." Really? Yes, really.
321 CMR 2.04 provides that an "eligible person" has a right to the deer. Eligible is defined as:
The driver of the motor vehicle which collided with a salvageable deer, or any passenger in such vehicle, provided that such person shall be domiciled in Massachusetts.
If there is no eligible person, then indeed the deer may go to "any approved organization or to any person domiciled in Massachusetts..."

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Homestead Law

Last week, Gov. Patrick signed a significant new homestead law, St.2010, c.___ (S2406), which will take effect next March. Here are some highlights:

  • Automatically protects up to $125,000 in home equity without filing
  • Protects up to $500,000 for those who file for homestead protection
  • Allows spouses to both file-- currently only one may file
  • Clarifies that there is no need to re-file after refinancing
  • Provides coverage for homes kept in trusts
Helpful information on the new law can be found at and the Lowell Registry of Deeds blog. More on homesteads is available at our Mass. Law About Homestead

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Can The Law Libraries Do For You?

Brown Bag Lunch at the State Library, Room  442 State House, tomorrow from noon - 1:30. According to the State Library's blog:
Marnie [Warner, Law Library Coordinator] will be speaking about what the law libraries can do for you, asking the audience what they would like to see the law libraries provide and will also talk about the initiative and the Massachusetts Library Access to Justice program. The initiative ensures public access to the law and the Mass Library Access to Justice program facilitates access to legal information at public libraries.
To register for the Brown Bag, please go to: 
You may also do so by calling Reference directly at 617-727-2590 or by e-mailing us at

Child Custody and Parental Relocation

Yesterday, in Smith v. McDonald, the SJC decided a case in which an unmarried mother moved out of state with her child before paternity was adjudicated, and without the permission of the putative father.  The court held:
Permission to relocate, however, is not required when a child has only one legal parent. Such is the case for a nonmarital child prior to any proceedings to determine paternity or allocate custodial rights. When the paternity of a nonmarital child has not yet been established pursuant to G.L. c. 209C, § 2, the mother is the child's only parent. The putative biological father has no legal rights that need to be protected by the court, and the mother may relocate freely with the child.
Other cases on relocation in different circumstances can be found at our Law About Child Custody: Moving Away.

Friday, December 10, 2010

DNA Indictment Tolls Statute of Limitations

Yesterday, in Comm. v. Jerry Dixon, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the return of a DNA indictment tolled the 15 year statute of limitations in a rape case. In so holding, the court wrote:
Where a general John Doe indictment, bereft of any particularity, must fail as generally anonymous, the converse is true of a DNA indictment: it prevails as precisely eponymous.
Unlike the general John Doe indictment in Connor, supra at 575, which merely expressed a grand jury's intention to accuse "anyone," id. at 578, an indictment of a person identified by a DNA profile accuses a singular and ascertained, but simply unnamed individual. Probably more than proper names or physical characteristics, DNA profiles unassailably fulfil the constitutional requirement that an indictment provide "words of description which have particular reference to the person whom the Commonwealth seeks to convict." 

 The court also addressed the concern that the tolling of limitations may have an adverse affect on defendants' ability to present an adequate defense, and stated that any remedy for potential inadequacies lay with the legislature:

We are not unmindful of the arguments of the defendant and others that DNA indictments may vitiate some of the important public policy purposes that our statutes of limitations serve.
In the event of an especially delayed trial, the defendant has other available remedies beyond challenging the sufficiency of the indictment.
It is in the first instance for the Legislature to determine whether these safeguards, albeit limited in nature and rare in application, are inadequate to protect putative defendants indicted by their genetic identity, but unable to be identified by name before the expiration of G.L. c. 277, § 63. If so, they may revisit the statutory scheme that we conclude permits the practice.