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.

Massachusetts Student Faces Both Misdemeanor And Felony Charges Stemming From Hit And Run Case

Bruce Springsteen wrote a song claiming that “Summer is here and the time is right for racing in the street”. Well, it is not summer and the time certainly isn’t right for street speeding. The lesson, however, is a little late in the learning for 17-year-old Michelle M. of Methuen (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). Accused of drag racing in Lowell by witnesses, the young lady will be facing charges alongside a criminal defense attorney.

According to the police, the Defendant will be charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury. The injured party was a 12-year-old boy who was struck by a car during what witnesses claim to be a drag race and thrown about 20 feet. Allegedly, because leaving the scene of an accident is a misdemeanor, the Defendant is going to be summoned to court at a later date and was not arrested. She has, however, lost her license.

According to witnesses, the racers had run a red light before one of the cars struck the boy. The boy is listed in fair condition with internal and head injuries at a Boston hospital.

According to the police, the Defendant, having left the lad for dead, fled the scene and went to a Lawrence hair salon, got her hair done and then reported to the police that her car had been vandalized.

“This is not a case of the operator having a consciousness of guilt and coming forward,” Lowell Police said at a press conference. “She continued on with her life. … She went back to school the next day.”

Apparently, the Defendant did eventually make a statement after a Lawrence officer contacted Lowell police after noticing that teen’s damaged car matched the description of the one they were looking for. According to the police, her version is that she had been in Lowell visiting the University of Massachusetts campus. She was apparently rushing back to Lawrence when she unknowingly hit the boy. She is said to have admitted, however, that she had heard “something and saw something hit her windshield.”

While some media reports say that the Defendant had turned herself in, the police say it is not true. In fact, it was because of her attempting to file the false report which led the police to her. The Defendant told a news station that, “I feel horrible. I hope he’s doing OK. I hope his family is OK…I just heard something hit my windshield and I panicked. And I took off.”

The police indicate that this, too, was not the case.

The fact is, however, that the police did get the Defendant to make some admissions. The fact is also true that they did not arrest her, but are sending her a summons.

The reason that, according to law enforcement, they could not arrest the Defendant because Leaving The Scene is only a misdemeanor. The Lawrence police do admit, however, that the Defendant could be charged with filing a false police report and the Lowell police admit that the investigation is not complete and that additional charges are expected.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

Really?

You see, we must all have imagined the various cases we have seen and, in my case, experienced, wherein defendants charged with only misdemeanors were arrested.

There is something amiss here. There are various charges that could have been brought against the Defendant and they are not all misdemeanors. For example, lying to the police in an investigation actually falls under the charge of Intimidation of a Witness. That is a felony charge. Further, while leaving the scene may be one possible charge, so is, at the very least, driving to endanger. Depending on what version of facts leading up to the accident the police rely on, vehicular assault is also a potential charge.

So, no matter how you cut it…no…that is not the real reason the Defendant was not arrested.

“So, what is it, Sam? Are you finally ready to admit that, if anything, the cops are actually soft on crime?”

Now, come on, you know me better than that by now. No, what is likely to be at least part of the reason is a potential deal that was struck in order to get the young Defendant to make a statement. You know the drill…”Come on….we don’t want to have to arrest you. We know that accidents happen. Give us your side to things. Help yourself”. “You seem like a nice kid.”

Such cajoling is often used to get admissions.

“Ok, but then, if that is the reason…then the police were as good as their word, right?”

That is true. I never said that police always lie in such situations. I have only said that they are allowed by law to lie in such circumstances. Of course, one wonders if they included in their representations the part about “…and we will not have to arrest you. However, we will charge you with crimes we have not even suggested to you yet and use the statement we just got you to give us to wrap it around your neck like a noose and make sure that you are guaranteed a conviction.”

And, by the way, if my suggestion of how it went down is correct, is that necessarily a bad thing? It depends on who you ask. Many people would tell you it is simply good police work.

And maybe it is.

However, patting law enforcement on the head is not what you are looking for in reading this blog. You want to know what this has to do with you.

Negligent or reckless driving which causes an accident can not only ruin the life of the person injured, but the driver as well.

In this case, the Defendant is a youth. Her entire life is in front of her. That life, one would expect will be full of school and job applications. Even without considering the question of incarceration, the mere conviction s for these crimes can limit, if not prevent, various career choices. By choosing the “self help” method of dealing with the police, the Defendant has taken this horrible situation and made it worse.

Fleeing the scene was step one in making it worse. Making statements which may or may not have been inconsistent with contrary provable facts was step two. She may have made a successful deal with law enforcement to keep her out of jail…for now…but she has outsmarted only herself.

The safest route in such a situation is that of contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. It is more important than getting the hair done and even more important than going to school the next day and arranging for the car to be fixed.

Should you find yourself or someone you care about to be facing such serious charges as these and wish to discuss the matter with 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.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2391355/posts and http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/11/20/mass_teen_cited_in_hit_and_run/

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