Yesterday, as you may have read through various print and other media outlets, I had occasion to drive to North Adams, Massachusetts on a new case. As I traveled the various hours, I was reminded again and again through the radio how I was actually taking my life in my hands. This has not been a great summer so far for driving safely. The only thing that seemed to make the odds in my favor for arriving in court and then at my office in Cambridge was the fact that I was not a member of any police force.
There have been a number of incidents where officers have been struck by civilian drivers over the past month. The latest example to grace the headlines was Mathew C., 24, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). On Saturday morning, he allegedly rear-ended a state police cruiser in a highway breakdown lane. He is said to have had a blood-alcohol level over twice the legal limit. Police also claim that he admitted at the scene to having had “too much” to drink.
I guess that would seemgly slam the lid shut for a prosecution for, among other things, drunk driving.
This was the fifth such crash in recent weeks. This time, the police say, the driver didn’t brake at all before slamming his car into the cruiser.
The Defendant pleaded not guilty to drunk-driving charges at his arraignment yesterday in Taunton District Court. He was released on personal recognizance (no bail) after agreeing not to drink alcohol and submit to random testing. His driver’s license was automatically suspended for 30 days for failing a breathalyzer test.
“He is very remorseful about what happened”, explained his attorney.
Other than a speeding ticket in 2004, the Defendant has no previous criminal history and a clean driving record..
State Trooper Correy Rose was behind the wheel of the cruiser when the Defendant’s Volkswagen barreled into it around 2:20 a.m. on Route 24 in Taunton. Rose, 33, suffered minor injuries and is recovering at home.
Rose had just pulled over another driver for violating the state’s “Move Over” law, which requires drivers to slow down when approaching stationary emergency response vehicles and, if possible, change lanes to give them more room. Rose had spoken with the driver and had returned to his cruiser, which had its flashing lights on, police said.
After the crash, the Defendant’s car flipped over and skidded more than 80 yards along the guardrail. Fortunately, the Defendant was wearing a seatbelt and was uninjured.
Police said they found two bottles of an alcoholic beverage in the car — one was empty.
State police plan to announce new safety measures this week following the spate of roadside crashes. All five incidents occurred between midnight and 2:30 a.m. In one, police have not identified the driver; in the other four, all the drivers facing charges were allegedly drunk.
Police officers are in a class in which they get different reactions.
Often, particularly in Defenselawyerland, they are treated with suspicion. On the streets, the reaction ranges from respect to fear.
In a blog like this one….well, it depends on the case. Law enforcement has received its share of criticism at my hands via the written word.
However, there is one area in which I have not yet met anyone who really disagrees. Nobody likes to see them killed or injured, particularly when they are doing things like trying to keep the roads safe and orderly.
We who criticize the police, often, I believe, correctly, are also among the first who call on them when we need their help. The two are certainly not mutually exclusive. But now, one wonders if police officers are about to become a class of another kind in the criminal justice system.
A special class of victim.
At least back when I was a prosecutor in New York, Murder in the First Degree was reserved for the murder of a police officer. Here in Massachusetts, there is no such sub-category. However, it has certainly been considered an aggravating factor in a case if a police officer was injured in a case.
In some cases, this has been met with ridicule. Perhaps it was not so long ago that I relayed in my blog how defense attorneys tend to look at the difference between the charges of “resisting arrest” and “assault and battery on a police officer”. The difference is how badly the defendant is injured.
Automobile accidents are also likely to be treated differently if they include injury or death of a police officer as opposed to the average citizen. On one hand, while there is a certain amount of “acceptance of risk” inherent in the duties of police officers, most people do not believe that such injuries should be part of simple traffic enforcement.
Now that there have been so many such cases, expect a move in the legislature for potential new criminal penalties in cases where a police officer is injured or killed.
Such are the things that mandatory minimum sentences are made of.
In the meantime, if you are accused of such a crime before the laws change…it is serious enough. Do not take it lightly. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to advise and represent you.
Should you wish to contact me for a free consultation, please feel free to do so by calling (617) 206-1942.
To view the story upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/07/bridgewater_man.html