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.

Boston-Area Schools Provide Criminal Justice Risks For Robbery Victims…And Everyone Else

As anyone feeling the weather this week can tell you, Fall is upon us. As we edge ever closer to the winter months, students around the Boston area are settling into their little piece of heaven in the Commonwealth – the campus. However, Heaven is not found here on Earth as two female Boston University students can now tell you. They were robbed at knifepoint and so now, the local police are searching for someone to introduce to defense attorneys.

It happened last Saturday while they were sitting on a bench in front of a university dorm early in the morning. The women told police that their assailant was a white male in his 20s. He approached them at around 4:15 a.m. and threatened them with a knife.

Neither woman was injured, but $50 and a pack of cigarettes was stolen.

It is unknown whether the assailant was also a BU student. University police are investigating with help from Brookline and Boston police.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

BU is now reminding students that the school is in an actual city. Cities have crime. Two women hanging outside a dorm, alone near dawn on a city street is not the best method to remain safe and crime-free.

Crime on campus occur. Not only in Boston. Not only robbery. The false feeling of security has been known to cost lives. Only last year, for example, there was a murder at Harvard University.

The fact is that, especially as law enforcement is paying more attention to campus crimes, that feeling of security is becoming even more false to many people.

Perhaps most unsympathetically, it is even more misleading for the perpetrators. I suppose it used to be seen as “easy money” to go to a campus and perform misdeeds. After all, students can often be rather careless and overly trusting. Those days are waning and the attention that law enforcement pays to such crimes has increased.

As we have discussed in the past, the prosecutorial finger of blame, like Constitutional rights, is not simply reserved for the guilty. Sometimes, in the rush to catch a perpetrator, that finger becomes a bit too broad. As a result, other people who were not involved in the crime get caught in the widely thrown net. Sometimes the wrong people get charged.

And that is not the only risk.

There is a great deal of pressure on law enforcement in and around academic settings. It is important both to the school and to the surrounding town or city that the school is considered a safe environment. As a result, if an allegation is made against someone in that setting, whether the matter be drug use, disorderly conduct or a sexual assault, the matter is usually taken even more seriously than it might be out of that setting.

The result? Almost immediate prosecution.

“So, is that so big a deal, Sam?”, you ask, amazed to find a blog actually posted on time this week. “I mean, if the prosecution is immediate, then there is no investigation and the case is probably a weak one.”

Maybe. But then again, the mere allegation appears on one’s criminal record as soon as there is an arraignment. Depending on the result, that case, even if there is no guilty finding, can stay on that student’s record for at least 10 years. That would include the time during which the plan was to go to graduate school, get a job, plan a future, etc.

It is a big deal.

“Well doesn’t the school realize that and so take extra steps to be careful and not ruin students’ lives just upon mere allegations?”

That would be nice, wouldn’t it? But…..no. Not usually.

So, the bottom line here, folks, is that the academic environment is not really a criminal justice safe haven for the innocent, the guilty or the stander by. In fact, it is even more dangerous. This makes it even more important to be wary and take to heart any hint of an investigation for wrongdoing.

If you feel that you, or perhaps your friend or child is in danger of over-zealous investigators in such a setting, you want to have an experienced criminal defense attorney involved. Do not wait. If you wish to discuss the matter me, please feel free to call me at (617) 206-1942.

For the full article upon which today’s blog is based, go to http://www.bu.edu/today/campus-life/2009/10/11/two-students-robbed-knifepoint, http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/10/bu_cautions_stu.html and

NOTE TO READER: Due to a particularly busy court schedule, as mentioned above, this otherwise daily blog was anything but daily this week. We apologize to our readers for the inconvenience.

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