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.

SOME MAJOR CRIMINAL JUSTICE LIES YOU HAVE BEEN TAUGHT

Okay… maybe that is a little misleading. Maybe they weren’t really lies.

Perhaps, when you were taught them, your teachers and parents thought that they were actually true. Maybe they even were true at the time.

But not any more. Not really.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Criminal Justice Reality

Time and again I am saddened by clients who thought they were playing “by the rules”, actually were playing by those rules and yet the system made them suffer for it. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  1. If you always do what you feel is the morally correct thing to do, you won’t get into trouble.

While it would be nice if that were true, it is not always true. First of all, it completely ignores that different people feel that different things are the “right thing to do”. I am not even referring to those of us who are deranged or otherwise have a broken moral compass. Sometimes even doing what seems to be obviously the right thing to do can get you in trouble. For example, the law may not agree with you in terms of the right thing to do.

I once handled the case where my client was trying to help a child, who was a close friend of his young daughters, in a very physically painful situation. The girl was young and her parents where nowhere reachable. Helping her pain was easy and something that he had had to do several times for his own daughter of that same tender age. In fact, the child was begging him to provide the medication that would eliminate the pain.

He did so.

He ended up prosecuted for sexual assault in the case actually went to trial.

Thank God for juries… He was found not guilty.

The police officer is always your friend. Be open with the police officer and always follow his or her direction.

Well, it would be great if things still work that way. Too often, they don’t. Actually, the second part is still true…only for a different reason. Simply, God help you if you do not follow direction.

Being a police officer is obviously a very difficult job. I actually respect police officers and feel that, most of the time, they are trying to do what they think is best.-See above as to how that works out.

Reality, and “progress”, have changed the police officer’s job, though. The police officer not only has to worry about doing what seems “just”, but work without enough resources and face down supervisors and bosses who, in the end, are politicians. You might think, as happens in the movies, that a police officer will oppose the supervisor in order to make sure that the right result is reached. I’m sorry to tell you that that is the stuff that wonderful movies and stories are made of… not of reality.

These days, the media is a very active part of the criminal justice system. As a result, if something were to go wrong, it may well end up on the front pages the next day. Usually, because we love scapegoats, it will be in the form of a criticism of that law enforcement agency. That translates to the criticism of the politician at the helm. Such is very bad news for that politician. Therefore, there is pressure on the police officer to make sure that such “embarrassments” do not happen.

How is this done?

As I have often told you, law enforcement does not get criticized when it is “too tough”. Only when, because of subsequent events, it seems like they were not tough enough.

The safest way for the officer to remain safe in his job? Give no break. Give no quarter. If there is a suspicion… Go with it. After all, even in a nonviolent crime, “what happens if you let him go and he goes out and kill somebody?”

You may think I am exaggerating. I am not. That is the quote I often hear. And heaven help the officer who gets a complaint of a crime and then, upon talking to the suspect, decides that the suspect is the one telling the truth. In most cases that spells disaster for the officer if things go wrong.

I have seen it from both sides of the aisle.

That is why it is generally the first person to contact the police who becomes the “victim” and the opposition the defendant.

If you tell the truth, you can’t get into trouble.

There are a number of reasons why this fallacy is problematic on a regular basis.

These days, telling the truth will not necessarily mean that it will be received as the truth. Nor will it mean that the investigators who say they “only want to get to the truth of the matter” have not already determined what they believe the truth is. In such situations, which happen more often than not, if you tell a truth that differs from theirs, the determination will be that it is you who are lying.

The “truth” is simply not what it was anymore.  Again, see points 1 and 2, above.

You have probably heard the old adage that “truth is stranger than fiction”. I cannot tell you how many times I have handled a matter and was left thinking, “You couldn’t make this stuff up!”

In fact, too often, these odd stories are the truth…and automatically dismissed as lies.

The point here is not a new one. It is important enough to deserve repeating, though. The old “rules” do not fit into today’s society at all times. Maybe when bad press and prejudice is not more important than doing the right thing it will be.

But not today.

In short…get an experienced criminal defense attorney before you open your mouth.

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