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.

INCREASE IN GUN VIOLENCE TRIGGERS POLICE SWEEP IN MALDEN

Things in Malden are getting just a little more intense. After four episodes of gun violence culminating in a September 10th shooting of one teenager by another (allegedly) in broad daylight on a busy street, police are taking action. This action is summed up in one word.

Sweep.

Officers from two regional departments swept through Malden parks and common areas looking for drugs and guns, city officials said. Unfortunately, they admit, nobody was arrested and no weapons were found…but a small amount of marijuana was found and confiscated.

As you may recall, possession of a small amount of marijuana is no longer an arrestable crime.

“This to me was more about perception than it was about looking to make actual arrests,” said Mayor Gary Christenson, who made public safety one of the focuses of his campaign when he was elected in November 2011. Not surprisingly, then, the sweep was deemed a success.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Police Sweeps And You

Despite my typical sarcasm, there are two pieces of good news in this story…and then one bad one.

First of all, the presence of the police in problem areas is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. Second, and perhaps more striking, is the fact that there was apparently no cause for any arrests or seizures (other than the small amount of pot).

The “need” to which I refer is the need to save face. These officers apparently did not see any problems and did not manufacture any…intentionally or unintentionally. Rather than fearing being made to look foolish if they did not come back with any “results”, they played it straight.

Especially in view of recent events at the Boston Crime Lab and similar stories…that is good to see.

However, there are clearly still, at least, guns out there. Perhaps the violence will be prevented by the fear of future sweeps. Maybe not. And if shootings continue to occur, the police are going to have to start showing some arrests with these sweeps.

And that is where the bad news comes in.

Sometimes, folks are out on the streets to commit crimes. Sometimes, they are not out there to commit crimes, but look like they are. Sometimes, innocent people are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When the climate is that which a “crack down” is expected by police making a showing (such as in the case of a sweep), people who ordinarily would not find themselves behind bars sometimes get there. Here, on the first trip out, no criminal fish were caught. Do not think that law enforcement thinks that it was because no such fish were out swimming anymore. To many law enforcement politicians, another empty net is going to be an embarrassment…particularly if such crimes do continue on “non-sweep days”.

The more such embarrassments occur, the more folks seem to suddenly find themselves behind bars unexpectedly. After all, the good folks of Malden do not want to seem as clumsy as law enforcement in Boston, with its flawed labs and criminal detectives…! So, whatever benefit of the doubt might have been afforded someone in the street in past days are not likely to be doled out during “sweep-days”.

“Well, Sam, when is the next ‘sweep-day’?”

Nobody knows. That is kind of the point of sweeps.

“So what do you suggest we do?”

Well, first of all, you had better be careful out there. Be aware of who you are with. Be aware of where you are. Even more than ever. Leave very little doubt in what you are doing outside.

“Well, Sam, there is only so careful one can be!”

This is true. It is why you should put some thought into what YOU would do if you or one of your loved ones suddenly found themselves being branded with the last name “Defendant”.

“Ok, so tell us. “

It is basically the same thing that I have been telling you. If approached by the police, do not try to out-talk, out-run or out-fight them. Those attempts will lose. Simply do what you are told and do not volunteer why what you were doing was not illegal. Leave that for later.

Leave that for an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Understand that this is what you want to do. And then, when the need seems to be arising, contact such an attorney.

Frankly, doing otherwise might simply create more damage to you which means more work for the lawyer. Both of which, of course, mean bad news for you.

For the original story upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/09/19/malden-responds-gun-violence-with-wide-ranging-police-sweep/3kucQFiMMfWILtSxYL4aYO/singlepage.html

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