Boston Area Police Officers Approve Of Defense Attorneys When Facing Charges Of White Collar Crimes And Drunk Driving

So far, 2009 has been an active year for certain Boston-area law enforcement officials in terms of legal problems. Take for example Stoughton’s police chief, Manuel, C., 57 (hereinafter, “Defendant 1”), this week appearing beside his defense attorney, standing trial on white collar charges that he tried to use his authority to threaten a former Stoughton businessman in April 2002 to drop a complaint of misconduct against a former police sergeant.

He’s also accused of trying to cover up the sergeant’s attempt to coerce a settlement of a civil claim against the businessman.

Defendant 1 has been on paid leave since he was indicted nearly four years ago. He began trial in Dedham Superior Court yesterday.

Then there is the tale of Brockton Police Officer Daniel M., 31, (hereinafter, “Defendant 2”) who has finally returned to work for the first time since his May 2005 arrest on a rape charge. He is now undergoing retraining before hitting the streets again, Police Chief William Conlon said.

Superior Court Judge Paul Troy is said to have dismissed the rape charge last week after a series of legal proceedings and after the woman making the allegations failed to appear in court at any time. Because the charge was dropped, Defendant 2 will receive back pay from the city. Conlon said the city is now calculating that amount.

Defendant 2 had already served a five-day suspension given by then Police Chief Paul Studenski in connection with the case, Conlon said.

Fellow Brockton Police Officer Paul K., 44, (hereinafter, “Defendant 3”) has not been so lucky. He was convicted of operating under the influence of alcohol, second offense, after he crashed his SUV into three parked cars while off duty. He was sentenced to in-patient counseling and two years probation. In accordance with state law, his driver’s license was also suspended.

He will remain on paid administrative leave while the city awaits an evaluation from a psychologist on whether he is fit for duty, Conlon said.

Defendant 3 had been placed on paid administrative leave on November 9th at the advice of a private labor lawyer, Conlon said. He has served a lengthy suspension in the matter.

“We are now looking at what we can legally do and what should be done,” he said, as if these were two different options.

Defendant 3, a police officer since July 1997, lost his license for 120 days after refusing to take a blood alcohol test in 1990, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. In 1984, he went through a driving while intoxicated by alcohol program in Yarmouth. Both cases occurred before he became a police officer.

His driving record also includes speeding tickets in 1990, 1991 and 1984 in Bourne, Brockton and Yarmouth, along with a surchargable accident in 2001 in Easton and failure to display his license plate in 1991, according to RMV records.

A surchargable accident means his auto insurance premium was raised for a period of time.

Attorney Sam’s Take:

There are a number of interesting elements about Defendants 1 – 3’s dalliances on the other side of the criminal justice aisle. Most instructive is the story of Defendant 3.

Particularly if you have had any alcohol or medication at all, it is usually advisable to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or any other blood alcohol tests. If you do refuse, which is your right to do, the police will often try to cajole or ridicule you into changing your mind. But look what happened to Defendant 3 in 1990. He was clearly aware of his options, particularly given his interest in becoming a police officer. He knew to refuse the test and, it would seem, as a result, there was not enough evidence to lead to a conviction. True, he lost his license for a time, but I suggest that is a better option than having your license suspended and ending up with a criminal record.

Another, perhaps more unsettling, revelation of defendant 3’s story is the state of law enforcement in Brockton. Here, you have someone with a prior conviction for drunk driving, as well as his prior incidents with, at least, suspected operating under the influence as well as a rather spotted driving record. Yet, he is welcomed into the Blue Line. Then, while a police officer, he is convicted of a second offense for drunk driving and loses his license for a time and they are still trying to fit him in.

But then, you know how tough and unfair I can be. Defendant 3 is probably one of the most talented police officers the country has ever known.

At least, when he is sober.

Meanwhile, it is nice to see a police department respecting a dismissal of criminal charges as it has with Defendant 2. Some agencies, such as the Department Of Children and Families (formerly, the Department of Social Services), do not take such unfortunate incidentals so seriously. In fact, they are often not even impressed with a “not guilty” verdict. Defendant 2 was charged with a serious crime that likely got a lot of attention. However, he was never convicted and, under our laws, he continues to be presumed innocent.

All three of today’s defendants are police officers. These are people who, I would think, never woke up in the morning expecting to find the finger of prosecution pointed at them. But it was.

Things happen. When they do, it is fascinating how perspectives can change.

Most police officers are not great fans of defense lawyers for obvious reasons. To them, the lawyers protect the “bad guys”. And, after all, anyone accused of a crime, as far as they are concerned, is a “bad guy”.

Until it is they who don the cloak of “defendant”. Then, a defense lawyer is necessary. My experience has taught me that, when that time comes, they prefer an experienced and talented one.

So, if not from me, accept the message from your local law enforcement. If you are being investigated or charged in connection with a crime, do all that you can to protect yourself. Seek counsel as soon as possible from an experienced defense attorney. Get the best defense you can.

Take it from the police…they know a thing or two about the criminal justice system.

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