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.

A Boston Defense Attorney Discusses Police SWAT Investigation Into Armed Robbery

Big happenings in the Boston area! A police investigation into a robbery with a gun! What could be more exciting than a big SWAT team operation? The Bad Guys are usually cornered and lives hang in the balance as the Good Guys take control and take whatever Bad Guys still exist after the stand-off into custody.

Such was the scene at Fenwood Road in Mission Hill yesterday.

Well, almost.

It was a tense four hours last night as the investigating Boston Police Department special operations team and dozens of police units surrounded the apartment at issue.

The targets?

Armed robbery suspects! Pretty serious stuff!

It had begun when a man flagged down a patrol car and told them that two men had just robbed him at gunpoint . He pointed out the building and told them he was in an apartment there.

Special operations officers responded and surrounded the house. While other officers kept the scene under control, evacuating neighbors and others who might be in danger should the standoff become violent, other officers received a search warrant.

Finally, they at around 9:30 p.m., they had the warrant and the scene was secured. Time for action!

The officers stormed the house, followed by two Boston police K-9 dogs, one of them trained to detect firearms.

They went in and found…nobody.

Jimmy S., 52, said he lives in the house where the suspect or suspects were allegedly barricaded. “The police came in and they said something was wrong, and get out,” he described, clutching a blanket while sitting in a wheelchair a block away from his home. “It scared me.”

Police Lieutenant Trent Holland explained that the intense police response was standard procedure. “Anytime there’s an allegation of an armed person within an apartment someplace, we have to mobilize the Emergency Services Unit,” he said.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

Particularly after reading yesterday’s blog, you may be thinking, “Uh-oh. Here it comes. Sam is going to lay into those officers for causing such a commotion without anything to show for it!”

Actually…that is not my view.

Hindsight is always a perfect view. Unfortunately, police officers are called upon daily to make split-second decisions. While, perhaps, it was embarrassing because nobody was found after all the excitement, taking every precaution was probably the best way to go.

After all, should they not have investigated? Should they have just run in, taking a chance that guns would soon be blazing?

But then again, this is not a blog about police procedure…directly. The real question for this blog is what does this have to do with you?

Well, imagine you were one of those neighbors. The police bang on your door and tell you that they need you to vacate for a bit. This poses a couple interesting scenarios that are more relevant to this, a Boston Criminal Defense blog.

One scenario is that you are getting ready for bed. You do not want to leave. You tell them, “No”.

They tell you “yes”.

Who wins the argument? Well, because of their duty to keep the peace and try to keep you safe from harm, they probably do. However, what if it looks like they are winning the argument and you start to get really loud and upset?

Now, you have guaranteed that they win the argument, because they may well arrest you for a myriad of charges, including Disorderly Conduct. After all, as we have discussed before, under the law, you really just need to be offensive to the officers for that little reward.

Let me give you another scenario…the officers tell you that you need to leave the premises. Over your shoulder, they happen to see Billy Bonghit in the midst of his favorite hobby…getting stoned. Across from Billy, sitting on a sofa, is Shootemup Sally. She is cleaning her AK-47. Between them on the table? You guessed it…a small pile of cocaine.

Now what?

Under our search and seizure laws, if the police are in a legal position to observe these things, they can act on them. In other words, it just got easier for the police to force the bunch of you out of the apartment because you are going for a visit to the local police station, wearing the Commonwealth bracelets of shame.

The bottom line?

When the police come a-calling, be polite and do not challenge their authority. Lesson two is that you never know when they might come a-calling.

So, on one hand, you want to be careful with what they might see if they do. The best solution, of course, is to obey the law. But, to those who find that too difficult, the next best thing is to have a plan of conduct in place. Such a plan includes not challenging the officers’ authority, but otherwise keeping your mouth closed.

Oh yes…having an experienced criminal defense attorney in mind would not be a bad idea either. You are going to need one of those should such events occur. If they occur, or you suspect an investigation is going on after which the event might occur, you should contact the lawyer now.

Should you wish to consult with me, please feel free to give me a call at 617-492-3000 .

To view the original story upon which today’s blog was based, please go to http://mobile.boston.com/art/30/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/08/23/police_standoff_in_mission_hill_ends_when_home_found_empty/

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