Ok, I admit it. Sometimes, the extreme heat can even effect experienced criminal defense attorneys. Yes, even in Boston, although we generally never have to face temperatures that feel like over 1000 degrees as we did last Friday. The point is, though, that although I was able to handle my courthouse responsibilities, Friday’s blog did not happen.
Sorry about that…but here it is now.
As you may recall, we were looking for some closure regarding the messages underlying two of last week’s blogs. The first one, Martha Vinyard Man Faces Assault And Battery With A Dangerous Weapon Charges For Attack On Alleged Sexual Predator, left us with the odd statement I made at the end of the story, namely that, given today’s criminal justice realities, there was not much difference between the defendant’s receiving Pretrial Probation and an acquittal. The other posting, Massachusetts Juveniles At Risk In Romance, Retribution And Criminal Charges, ended with my indicating that a juvenile having to deal with a case in the juvenile justice system was only the beginning of said juvenile’s problems.
I told you that the reason was similar to the promised final word regarding the prior blog.
Here is what I was talking about.
Attorney Sam’s Take On The After-Effects Of Criminal “Justice”
I have often written about my view of the “presumption of innocence”.
I have told you that what I see is that it translates into an “Assumption” of guilt…at least, until the actual trial. What I have not spent a great deal of time writing about is what happens to that Assumption after the court closes its file.
It is something usually not mentioned in polite company, but it is one of the dirty little secrets not only of the criminal justice system, but general population as well. Basically, the existence of the case turns out to be the gift that keeps giving.
Let’s take them in order. First, the instance of the gentleman who, in the view of most, heroically attacked the alleged sex offender. First of all, receiving Pretrial Probation is not terribly common. It is a way for both sides to “save face” because prosecutors hate to dismiss cases. It looks bad, or so they figure.
In order to received pretrial probation, there is no admission on the part of the defendant. The matter is continued for a certain amount of time. After that period of time, if there have been no problems, the matter is dismissed. If there is a problem, then the case comes back.
“Sam, how on earth is that anything like an acquittal?”
When viewing the potential risk of a guilty finding by a jury, a lot. One thing that is different, however, is the amount of time one must late before trying to seal the record. However, let’s assume the probationary period went well and the matter is dismissed. Let’s turn the clock ahead a bit and see the results of each.
Let’s say said defendant has to fill out a job application and finds that nasty question, “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” The answer to both is “no”.
“Ok, so maybe most people won’t know. But, if he is ever stopped on the road, or if he is ever arrested for anything, won’t the police know? ”
Sure. In fact, if the potential employment gets signed permission to discover the applicant’s CORI, that employer will discover the result as well.
So the bottom line question is whether the dismissed P.P. will be interpreted any differently than the acquittal.
And, now we may as well as throw in the juvenile matter as well. There is one primary difference in the case of juveniles as the system is now. That is that not only will the record haunt in terms of work and police contact…but further education as well. Simply put, it will have more years to wreak havoc and more damage to inflict in terms of how said juvenile’s life turns out.
And what is my opinion in the cases of adults and juveniles placed in the position of having the P.P. or acquittal…or any other dismissal for that matter?
They have a big problem. You see, most people do not really subscribe to the letter of the law when it comes to such interpretations. The adage, “Well, if they were accused, then they must have done something to deserve it! Maybe they got away with it this time…!” tends to be more commonly accepted.
And in court? Do you know how many times I have heard a prosecutor or probation officer point to a client’s record in arguing to a judge, claiming that the client has a criminal record when, in fact, only acquittals or dismissed cases are there?
Too many. And these are the people who are supposed to know better!
This is why simply being dragged into the adult criminal justice system or the juvenile justice system is the beginning of a nightmare. From there on, it simply a matter of minimizing damage.
It is also why treating invitations to clerk magistrate’s hearings very seriously is so important. It is the last step before an arraignment. And, upon arraignment, the matter is put on the defendant’s CORI.
To view the blog posts upon which this blog is based, please go to
https://www.bostoncriminallawyerblog.com/2011/07/martha_vinyard_man_faces_assau.html and https://www.bostoncriminallawyerblog.com/2011/07/massachusetts_juveniles_at_ris_1.html