Boston.com that some local police agencies are seeking to broaden the powers of police officers to make arrests outside of their jurisdictions. The police agencies are following the outcome of a current Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) appeal to reinstate a driving under the influence conviction, which was dismissed after an Appeals Court determined an off-duty police officer exceeded his powers in another jurisdiction.
In the case the defendant, Joseph F. Limone, was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol for a 2006 incident in which he rear-ended the vehicle of Robert Kelleher, a Somerville police officer on his way home from work. After the accident, Kelleher, dressed in uniform, approached the defendant’s car, identified himself as a police officer, suspected the defendant was drunk, and asked him to step out of the car. Kelleher then took the keys from the ignition of Limone’s car and called the police. The two men awaited the arrival of the Woburn police in their respective cars. Subsequently, Limone was arrested and convicted of drunk driving.
In its reasoning for dismissal of the case, the Appeals Court discusses the Fourth Amendment, which provides for the right to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. The officer, being outside of his jurisdiction, is essentially a private citizen and therefore limited to making arrests under the same circumstances as a private citizen. In this case, was the behavior of the police officer consistent with the behavior of a private citizen in the same scenario?
Police Picture taken By Thivierr
The answer, in some respects, is yes. The officer took the keys from a person he suspected of being drunk, called the police, and waited in his car for them to arrive. He never arrested the defendant. These are all actions that a private citizen under the same circumstances might make.
On the other hand, the officer was in uniform, which makes it difficult to separate his actions as a private citizen and a police officer. If an off-duty police officer in uniform asked you to do something, would you obey? Would you know if they were off duty or out of their jurisdiction?
We’ll wait to hear what the SJC thinks.