Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Actual Judicial Activism Looks Like

Commonwealth v. Ross, No. 07-P-1183, is an Appeals Court case that came down a couple of days ago. It's a simple case about a guy who fled from a police officer, which is not something this blog endorses. He was convicted, he appealed, and he lost.

He shouldn't have.

The criminal statute that governs in situations where someone fails to stop for a police officer is simple. It punishes those who fail to "stop when signalled to stop by any police officer who is in uniform or who displays his badge conspicuously on the outside of his outer coat or garment." G.L. c. 90, § 25.

So that's the law. The police officer must be in uniform or display the badge conspicuously. If you fail to stop at that point, you get to go to jail.

In this case, though, the police officer was not in uniform and did not display a badge. Game over, right? Wrong. Though there is nothing in the statute providing them with the latitude to do so, the Court disregarded the uniform/badge requirement because the officer was in hot pursuit.

Will conservatives raise holy hell about this? Probably not, since the bad guy lost. But if people think that police shouldn't always have to flash a badge as a prerequisite to a failure to stop charge, they should talk to their legislators about it. Changing the statute would be easy enough. It would probably pass on a voice vote.

Is the badge requirement objectively absurd? Maybe. But absurdity, like so much else, is relative.


Anonymous said...

Leave us four or five conservatives in Massachusetts alone. Even if we raised holy hell, nobody in Massachusetts is listening to us. This is a Democrat utopian state, so deal with it.

Terry Klein said...

Somehow I think that's not going to be an argument that puts a whole lot of state rep or senate districts back in the R column.