In Commonwealth v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Judicial Court responded to a reported question in relation G.L. c.269, §10(m), ruling that a defendant who has been convicted of possession of a large capacity feeding device, in violation of this statute, may lawfully be sentenced to State prison for not less than one year nor more than two and one-half years, and is not subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of two and one half years.
The background was as follows. “The defendant pleaded guilty to possession of a large capacity feeding device, in violation of G.L. c.269, §10(m), as well as [other firearm] offenses…. [T]he defendant was sentenced, over the Commonwealth’s objection, to a term of from one to two and one-half years’ imprisonment…. In a motion for reconsideration, the Commonwealth sought a sentence of at least two and one-half years. The judge then reported the following question …: May a defendant who has been convicted of possession of a large capacity feeding device, in violation of [G.L. c.269, §10(m)], lawfully be sentenced to State [p]rison for not less than one year nor more than two and one-half years?’”
The SJC answered the reported question in the affirmative. The Court set forth the relevant portions of the statute as follows: “‘[A]ny person not exempted by statute who knowingly has in his possession, or knowingly has under his control in a vehicle, a large capacity weapon or large capacity feeding device therefor who does not possess a valid Class A or Class B license to carry firearms … shall be punished by imprisonment in a [S]tate prison for not less than two and one- half years nor more than ten years…. [A]ny … person charged with violating this paragraph and holding a valid firearm identification card shall not be subject to any mandatory minimum sentence imposed by this paragraph. The sentence imposed upon such person shall not be reduced to less than one year, nor suspended, nor shall any person convicted under this subsection be eligible for probation, parole, furlough, work release or receive any deduction from his sentence for good conduct until he shall have served such minimum term of such sentence.’”
The SJC noted that “[t]he Superior Court judge who reported this case aptly characterized this imperfect statute as ‘vexing.’” The problem, stated the SJC, is that “we are confronted with what appear to be two different mandatory minimum sentences and one maximum sentence.” “[T]he first provision [of the statute] states that ‘any person’ convicted under it ‘shall be punished by imprisonment in a [S]tate prison for not less than two and one-half years nor more than ten years.’…. The second provision in effect then creates two categories of felon: those who do … and those who do not hold valid FID cards…. Those who do ‘shall not be subject to any mandatory minimum sentence imposed by this paragraph.’…. So far so good; if the paragraph ended there, the two provisions might readily be reconciled, as our case law would permit us to view the sentencing range of ‘not less than two and one-half years nor more than ten years’ … as calling for a mandatory minimum sentence of two and one-half years applicable to ‘any person’ other than a valid FID card holder…. Of course, the paragraph has three, not two provisions, the third one bearing yet more of the hallmarks of a mandatory minimum sentence than the first…. This is the locus of the conundrum…. The third provision … states that ‘[t]he sentence imposed upon such person shall not be reduced to less than one year, nor suspended, … until he shall have served such minimum term of such sentence.’ ‘Such person’ arguably could mean one of the felons holding FID cards referred to in the second provision, but this would be nonsensical…. To the extent that the third provision properly is deemed a mandatory minimum sentence, felons holding FID cards are not subject to such a sentence by virtue of the second provision. Thus, if the third provision is a mandatory minimum sentence, ‘such person’ refers to ‘any person,’ namely, the same non-FID-card-holding felons to whom the first provision also applies.” “[W]e think essentially what the Legislature intended to do was to establish, for non-FID-card holders, a lower end of the sentencing range of from one to two and one-half years, with at least one year to serve, in State prison. FID card holders were intended to be sentenced quite differently, … inferably to recognize that those who possess a valid FID card have at least attempted to be more compliant with the gun laws.”
If you or a loved one is facing the possibility of a sentence, including charges that carry minimum mandatory time, you will need a defense attorney who is aware of any changes and/or clarifications in Massachusetts sentencing law and who can help you use them to your advantage. Attorney Daniel Cappetta can explain the current state of the law, explain any potential changes to the law, and assess how it applies to your case. Call today for a free consultation.