YOU MAY HAVE BEEN WRONGFULLY CONVICTED OF A DRUG OFFENSE DUE TO THE MISCONDUCT OF FORMER STATE DRUG LAB CHEMIST ANNIE DOOKHAN
If you were convicted of a drug offense in eastern Massachusetts between 2003-2012 and want to learn if you have a Dookhan case or how to exercise your rights, call the Public Defender “Dookhan Case” hotline at 1-888-999-2881 or submit an email inquiry to our office using the following interactive tool:
Public Defender “Dookhan Case” Hotline:
We are the Drug Lab Crisis Litigation Unit, a part of the Massachusetts public defender agency dedicated to helping individuals with convictions tainted by the misconduct of Annie Dookhan. You can make a confidential call to the hotline operated by our paralegals and attorneys.
The number is: 1-888-999-2881 and the hotline is open Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Drug Lab Crisis:
From 2003 to 2012, Annie Dookhan worked as a chemist at the Hinton State Drug Lab testing samples associated with people charged with drug crimes. In 2012 it was learned that, during the course of her employment at Hinton, Dookhan improperly tested substances, intentionally altered test results, falsified reports, and falsely testified at criminal trials. Dookhan participated in the testing of over 80,000 samples, affecting well over 20,000 cases. She was eventually prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned. The Hinton Drug Lab was closed due to Dookhan’s egregious misconduct and the mismanagement of the lab in general.
There have been several important court decisions about the rights of people convicted of drug offenses based on analyses performed by Annie Dookhan. As a result of the most recent decision, called Bridgeman II, over 21,000 Dookhan convictions were vacated and dismissed. Notices from the court are being sent to the people whose cases were dismissed. A separate mailing is being sent to approximately 300 other people with Dookhan cases to tell them how to challenge their convictions.
Recent Court Action:
On January 18, 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court determined that over 20,000 individuals had yet to receive adequate notice that they may have been victimized by Dookhan’s misconduct. Accordingly, it ordered the District Attorneys to review, within 90 days, all the Dookhan cases they had identified in order to determine: 1) which individuals were entitled to relief; 2) which cases they would agree to vacate and dismiss; and 3) which cases they could and would re-prosecute, if the defendant won a motion for a new trial.
On April 18, 2017, the District Attorneys for Bristol, Cape and Islands, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Suffolk counties provided lists of each set of defendants to the courts where the Dookhan convictions arose:
- Individuals who already had their Dookhan related charges addressed or who pleaded guilty before she completed the testing of the substances were identified and received no benefit from the court’s decision or the DA’s actions. Any person who believes they may have been improperly placed on this list can contact CPCS for additional information.
- Individuals whose convictions on Dookhan related charges were being vacated and dismissed with prejudice were identified. The following day, the Supreme Judicial Court issued a declaratory judgement vacating (undoing) these convictions and dismissing the original Dookhan related charges “with prejudice,” meaning the government could never pursue the charges again. Over 21,000 drug charges were dismissed. Every individual whose charges were dismissed is to receive a notice in the mail indicating the same. A copy of that notice is provided below. Each defendant’s criminal record should be updated by mid-summer 2017. Anyone who needs their record updated sooner, or who wants to know the status of any non-Dookhan related charges in their case can contact CPCS.
- Individuals whose convictions on Dookhan related charges were not being vacated and dismissed, because the DA’s certified they could and would re-prosecute, were also identified. Approximately 300 defendants were placed in this category. Each of these defendants will receive a separate mailing that includes a detailed notice of his or her rights as well as a guidance letter from CPCS. A copy of that notice is provided below. Any such defendant who wishes to have a lawyer appointed to their case should call the “Dookhan Defendant” hotline number listed above. No action will be taken on their behalf unless CPCS is contacted. It is important for these individuals to understand that, if they choose to file a motion for a new trial, they can never face additional punishment. The Supreme Judicial Court has already ruled that, even if re-prosecuted, these defendants cannot be sentenced to any additional jail time or probation and cannot be subject to any new fines or fees. They also have other special legal rights, explained below. CPCS has hired additional staff in order to represent these individuals.
Special Legal Rights of “Dookhan Defendants”:
The Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, has ruled that an individual who qualifies as a “Dookhan defendant” is entitled to certain legal rights. In addition to the fact that Dookhan defendants may never face any additional punishment related to their Dookhan-tainted drug conviction(s), the SJC has ruled that such defendants have the following rights:
- The right to speak to a lawyer for advice about whether to challenge the conviction(s) and to be represented by counsel in court. If a Dookhan defendant cannot afford a lawyer, he or she will be appointed one free of charge.
- The right to a “conclusive presumption” that Ms. Dookhan committed serious misconduct in their case. This means that defendants do not have to prove that she mishandled the drug samples involved in the case.
- The right to ask a court to “vacate,” or undo, the conviction(s).
- Defendants who originally pleaded guilty have the right to withdraw their plea if they can show a “reasonable probability” that they would not have pleaded guilty if they had known about Ms. Dookhan’s misconduct.
- Defendants who were convicted at trial have the right to a new trial unless the court concludes that the Dookhan drug analysis did not influence the jury or had only a very slight effect on the jury.
What to do if you receive a letter:
- If you received a “Notice of Dismissal,” pictured below, any Dookhan related drug convictions associated with the case have already been vacated (undone) and these charges have been dismissed. If you were convicted of another offense in the same case, that conviction will remain in place. Due to the number of people who were placed in this category, the courts have estimated that it will take up until midsummer 2017 for criminal records to be updated. You can check to see the status of your criminal record by clicking the iCORI link below. If there is an urgent need for your record to be updated sooner than that (i.e., due to immigration consequences or employment issues), or if you have any other questions about your case, you can contact CPCS at the Hotline number listed above.
- If you received a “Notice of Dookhan Conviction,” pictured below, believe you are indigent (unable to pay for a lawyer), and want the court to appoint an attorney to advise and represent you, you must contact CPCS. If you have any questions about the forms, or if you wish to speak with an attorney generally before deciding to proceed, you can also call the Hotline number listed above. If you do not respond, the court will not take any action with respect to your case.
The above notices also contain Spanish language translations.
Drug Lab Crisis Litigation Unit
7 Palmer Street, Suite 302
Roxbury, MA 02119
Main: (617) 445-7581
Fax: (617) 427-1320
Office Hours (Monday – Friday): 9:00am – 5:00pm
Our office entrance is located on Palmer Street which connects Washington Street and Harrison Avenue in Roxbury. A 2 hour parking lot is located adjacent to building; off street parking is also available. We are also a three minute walk from the Dudley T Station. See T schedule/routes near you
Attorney in Charge
Nancy J. Caplan (617) 516-5815
Veronica G. Barros
Direct Line: (617) 516-5831
Office Hours: M-F 9:30-4pm
Matthew Harper-Nixon (617) 516-5031
Patricia Muse (617) 516-5805
Christopher K. Post (617) 516-5825
Bar Association Lawyer Referral Services:
Individuals who do not qualify for a court appointed attorney can contact the following bar association lawyer referral services:
- Massachusetts Bar Association 1-866-627-7577
- Boston Bar Association 1-800-552-7046
- National Lawyers Guild, Massachusetts Chapter 617-227-7008
- Barnstable County Bar Association – 508-362-2121
- Bristol County Bar Association – 508-990-1303
- Essex County Bar Association – 978-741-7888
- Middlesex County Bar Association – 781-939-2797
- Norfolk County Bar Association – 617-471-9693
- Plymouth County Bar Association – 508-584-6600
Individuals who wish to check their criminal record can visit the following Commonwealth of Massachusetts website:
Dookhan Related Court Decisions:
Bridgeman v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District, 476 Mass. 298 (2017) (‘Bridgeman II’)
Supreme Judicial Court, January 18, 2017 (opinion)
The SJC adopts a new protocol for case-by-case adjudication of drug cases potentially tainted by Dookhan’s misconduct. To accomplish case-by-case adjudication, the new protocol is to be completed in three phases. It will be implemented by the single justice in the form of a declaratory judgment. The District Attorneys are to submit lists of convictions they intend to vacate and dismiss by April 18, 2017.
Commonwealth v. Francis, 474 Mass. 816 (2016)
Supreme Judicial Court, July 20, 2016 (opinion)
A defendant who was convicted after trial based upon Dookhan’s involvement is entitled to a presumption of egregious government misconduct. The conviction is to be vacated if it can be shown that, apart from the drug certificates, the evidence regarding the identity of the controlled substances was not overwhelming.
Commonwealth v. Ruffin, 475 Mass. 1003 (2016)
Supreme Judicial Court, August 9, 2016 (opinion)
Where the drug certificates involved in the defendant’s case indicate that Dookhan analyzed the drugs after the defendant pleaded, there is no presumption that her misconduct tainted the case.
Bridgeman v. District Attorney for the Suffolk District, 471 Mass. 465 (2015) (‘Bridgeman I’)
Supreme Judicial Court, May 18, 2015 (opinion)
A defendant who has been granted a new trial based on Chemist Annie Dookhan’s misconduct at the Hinton drug lab cannot (1) be charged with more serious offenses than those of which they initially were convicted; and (2) if convicted again, cannot be given sentences longer than those that originally were imposed.
Commonwealth v. Scott, 467 Mass. 336 (2014)
Supreme Judicial Court, March 5, 2014 (opinion)
In cases where Dookhan signed the certificate of drug analysis as either the primary or secondary chemist, the defendant is entitled to a conclusive presumption that misconduct occurred in the case, that it was egregious, and that it was attributable to the Commonwealth. The defendant is entitled to a new trial if he can demonstrate a reasonable probability that knowledge of the misconduct would have been material to the decision to plea.
Commonwealth v. Charles, 466 Mass. 63 (2013)
Supreme Judicial Court, July 22, 2013 (opinion)
In certain circumstances a Superior Court judge does have the authority to allow a defendant’s motion to stay the execution of his sentence, then being served, pending disposition of the defendant’s motion for a new trial.
Office of the Inspector General Reports:
On March 4, 2014, the Office of the Inspector General released a report detailing the results of its investigation into Dookhan’s misconduct and other issues at the Hinton Drug Laboratory, where she worked. It issued a supplemental report on February 2, 2016.