Determining the defendant’s criminal history category.
Based on the number and seriousness of prior convictions, offenders are to be placed in one of five criminal history categories: No/Minor Record, Moderate Record, Serious Record, Violent or Repetitive Record, or Serious Violent Record.
The commission adopted an incident-based approach for determining placement within a criminal history category. This means that multiple prior convictions with the same arraignment date are presumed to have arisen from the same criminal conduct, and are to be counted as one prior conviction based on the most serious offense of conviction. The presumption that several offenses arraigned on the same date arose from the same criminal conduct is rebuttable.
A conviction is defined as any final disposition requiring a finding of guilt. Examples of final dispositions considered to be convictions include: Guilty Filed; Guilty; Probation; Fine; House of Correction Commitment; State Prison Commitment; Split Sentence; and Suspended Sentence. Examples of final dispositions not considered to be convictions include: Dismissed; Continued Without a Finding; Filed (absent a finding of guilt); and Not Guilty.
The commission established a policy that prior convictions should only include those offenses which reached final disposition prior to the disposition date of the current offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
To place a defendant into a criminal history group:
- Group defendant’s prior convictions by arraignment date into criminal incidents;
- Using the Master Crime List, assign an offense seriousness level to each criminal incident based on the most serious offense of conviction;
- Record the number of criminal incidents at offense seriousness level 9, level 8, level 7, ... level 1.
- Using the criminal history definitions, assign the defendant to the appropriate criminal history category.
All delinquency adjudications for offenses in level 7, 8, and 9 should be treated as prior convictions purposes of determining the criminal history category. In addition, all federal or out-of-state convictions should be translated into the equivalent Massachusetts offenses and included
- Staircasing / Prior Convictions
Where a prior conviction is for a crime which has been staircased, if none of the staircasing factors such as amount stolen or lost, injury, display of gun, or dwelling/non-dwelling is ascertainable, the conviction should be assigned the lowest seriousness level for that crime.
Illustration 3: A defendant has a prior conviction for Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon, though the degree of injury to the victim is unknown. This conviction should be placed at offense seriousness level 3, the lowest of the three seriousness levels to which a conviction for Assault and Battery with a Dangerous Weapon may be assigned.
- Multiple Incidents / Single Arraignment Date
The presumption that several offenses arraigned on the same date arose from the same criminal conduct is rebuttable. Multiple convictions with the same arraignment date may each be counted for purposes of criminal history placement on the sentencing guidelines grid where the court is satisfied that each such conviction represents separate criminal conduct.
- Single Incident / Multiple Arraignment Dates
Multiple convictions with different arraignment dates may be treated as the same criminal conduct for purposes of criminal history placement on the sentencing guidelines grid where the court is satisfied that such convictions represent the same criminal conduct.
- Mini-Master Crime List
To guide the determination of a defendant’s criminal history, a "mini-master" crime list has been developed. The mini-master crime list facilitates a preliminary "match" between offense abbreviations appearing on the Court Activity Record Information (CARI) file, and offenses on the master crime list (see Attachment B).
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