Samuel Goldberg has been a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney for 20 years. Prior to that, he was a New York state prosecutor. He has published various articles regarding the practice of criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on outlets such as the Fox News Channel, Court TV, MSNBC and The BBC Network. To speak to Sam about a criminal matter call (617) 492 3000.

Arrested For Homicide Or Drunk Driving? You Should Have Checked The Weather

To me, summer is best symbolized by the recording artist, Jimmy Buffett. In fact, one of my favorite songs of his is “Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful”. Summer is a season that is short-lived here in the Boston area. If one counted how many really nice days we usually get,…well, it is kind of depressing. We all know that the weather can effect moods. However, did you know that it can also control the need for criminal defense attorneys?

Southwick Police Officer Tom Krutka says he sees an increase during this time of year of a particular crime. He says that outdoor barbecues and holiday parties often involve alcohol. After the parties, folks hit the road…which often means operating under the influence of alcohol. He even sees a difference depending on the weather. Nicer weather…more drunk drivers.

Officer Krutka warns that “buzzed driving” is enough to get someone in trouble. Even one or two drinks, depending on the person, can get you arrested. “That’s just the beginning”, he continues. “If it turns out to be an accident, you effect the person you hit, the family the community, your family your life, financial burden it goes a long way.”

Well, he is right, of course. Drunk driving, and any resulting arrests, can ruin the lives of a lot of people.

But, is it fair to blame Mother Nature for the increase in drunk driving? Well, the fact is that he is not alone in seeing a connection. For example, the weather this past June was what one might call…bad. The website Boston.com has observed that “while the onslaught of miserable June weather played havoc with people’s plans and psyches, it has also provided a quiet benefit to many city neighborhoods. Shootings, both fatal and nondeadly, in Boston have plunged, and police believe the weather has been a key factor.

For example, there was only one shooting homicide in the area this past June. However, according to city records, in June, 2008, there were three. In June, 2007, there were six. Finally, in June, 2006, there were seven. In connection with these statistics, the number of shootings fell by more than 60 percent over that same period of time.

“We’ll take it every time,” Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said yesterday. “When the weather turns bad, and people are inside, there’s less violence.”

I‘m guessing that matters involving Domestic Violence are considered the exception to this weather-rule.

Of course, other developments could have their effects on the drop in violent crime as well. For example, city leaders have embarked on new crime fighting strategies, such as having law enforcement officials and ministers met with some of the city’s gang leaders in a tactical move to prevent bloodshed this summer.

Nonetheless, the violent crimes seem to decrease during bad weather. “I think the weather has tampered activities throughout neighborhoods that have historically been dangerous,” said Kevin Peterson, who runs the Ella J. Baker House in Dorchester and meets weekly with area police about crime trends. He has seen teens flock to the neighborhood center on Washington Street.

“Young people involved in criminal activity have elected to not be on the streets because of the weather, so I think in terms of the shootings being down in high crime neighborhoods, the weather has had a dampening effect.”

Examining those figures against weather reports, rain has fallen in tandem with the decrease in shootings. The city saw rain on 22 days in the month, when the 15 shootings occurred. Last year, it rained only eight days and the city saw 38 shootings in June.

Interestingly, criminologists and police analysts have long studied the weather’s effects on crime, and have always hinted that the crime rate spikes in the hot summer months. A number of factors could be at play: people tend to be agitated from the warm temperatures and more likely to act erratically; they are outside more often and have a greater chance to run into rivals, they said.

“When the weather’s hot, and people are outside, and more likely to bounce into somebody – literally – the chance of violence increases,” Davis said.

At the same time, the dreary days of winter blizzards, northeasters, and, in this case, June rains, could have the opposite effect in keeping people calm and most importantly, indoors.

“Indeed, if the weather’s bad, people tend to stay indoors – both potential perpetrators and potential victims,” said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. He said weather plays only a minor role in overall crime rates, but, “It’s in hot weather that people are interacting with others, and that can give a rise to conflict and therefore crime.”

Mary Vriniotis, a research specialist at the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, said many factors could be at play. A drop in one crime could translate into a spike in another, such as robberies, she said. Crime also happens in cycles, she said, and the plunge in shootings could be the work of community groups. But what is clear is that people go outside in the summer, and they stay indoors when it is dreary.

Criminal justice aside, that seems undeniable.

Except, maybe in Florida.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

So… it would seem that according to law enforcement, bad weather means less crime.

Kind of makes you feel guilty for wishing for a sunny day, doesn’t it?

On the other hand, this reasoning would suggest that some locations, such as San Diego, known for nice weather, must be a real mess with drunk drivers and guns blazing all over like in the wild west.

That is, if they had cars back then.

Places known for bitter cold weather, such as Alaska, must be virtually crime-free.

In any event, it is good to know what law enforcement is thinking. It is also good to note that they are considering the scientific and psychological approach. If nothing else, we now gain new understanding as to why there seem to be more officers during nice weather seeking traffic violations, drunk drivers and the like.

On the other hand, could it be that the increase in police officers during nice weather might have something to do with the increased number of arrests in and of itself? You know…as in more investigating officers, more arrests?

Well, that’s a question for a greater mind than mine.

I’m just waiting for a way to predict what kind weather makes law enforcement less prone to ticket cars within a micro-second of an expiring parking meter…!

NOTE TO READERS: Mea Culpa time again. Due to an emergency early morning meeting, I was unable to post the blog yesterday. The developments were related to a case of mine…but may have actually been caused by the weather now that I think about it…!

For the full articles concerning today’s posting of the Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, go to http://www.wwlp.com/dpp/news/local/wwlp_local_summer_brings_out_more_drunk_drivers_200907121130 and http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/07/03/rainy_june_douses_violence_in_boston/

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