Notary Public & Legal Support Network Blog

Monday, March 24, 2008

Police Departments – Internal Affairs

My Network works with a few organizations that exist to deter police misconduct. One of the best known organizations is the Police Complaint Center (PCC).

A former client of ours asks, “I have been the victim of police harassment in my town of xxxxxx. Every time I complain, the internal affairs department says my case has no merit! What can I do?”

In small towns, an internal affairs department usually consists of one to three police officers who supposedly investigate complaints of police brutality/misconduct. They’re a waste of time and taxpayer money!

Although the so called “Internal Affairs Department” has concluded that you weren’t harassed [or the victim of police brutality] does not mean you are legally prevented from bringing a cause of action against the police officer and/or the police department in a court of law.

The IA report will be brought up as evidence against your lawsuit; however, you can easily persuade a jury that the IA report has been “sugarcoated” in favor of the police officer. ---- This is why the IA reports are useless! -----

For example, let’s say a guest of yours falls through a weak floor that you knew was unsafe and that you intended to fix. Since you own the home, the party who got hurt sues you for their pain and suffering and medical bills. Your friend, who also lives with you on the property, investigates the matter and writes you a letter saying that the injury sustained by the plaintiff [person suing you] was not the direct result of your negligence and/or the poor condition of your property. ---- Do you really believe this letter (a report) will help your case? Of course not!

So, in conclusion, don’t let a sugarcoated IA report discourage you from filing civil or criminal charges against a police officer and/or police department.

P.S.: I should add that you don’t need to be a police officer to file criminal charges against someone.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501

A Process Server of this Network asks, "what protections do I have as a process server in Massachusetts, if any? . . . Lets say that I am pushed down a flight of stairs while serving a subpoena issued by a United States Court because a person was pissed that they got served. What laws, if any, in Massachusetts, would assist me in getting justice?"

Answer: It is a violation of Federal Law to assault and/or wound a Process Server. Since Federal Law trumps State Law, I will only write about the Federal. It does not matter if you're a constable, deputy sheriff, appointed by the court to serve process (special process server), or a disinterested process server. All that matters is the following:
  1. you are serving court related process for a United States Court (subpoenas, motions, etc.); AND
  2. you are authorized by law or court rules to serve the process; AND
  3. the person who assaulted you knows, or should know, that you are a process server (this is why most process servers carry a badge and/or a process server ID); AND
  4. while serving the process, you were the victim of an assault.

If the aforementioned elements exist, then the person who pushed you down a flight of stairs has violated Federal Law and can be punished under Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501 (text of law appears below).

Additionally, the above cited Federal Law makes it a crime for a person to do the following:

  1. obstruct a process server who is serving court related process; OR
  2. resist a process server who is serving court related process; OR
  3. oppose a process server who is serving court related process; OR
  4. beat a process server who is serving court related process; OR
  5. wound a process server who is serving court related process.

I should add that the law applies to anyone who obstructs, resists, wounds, opposes, assaults, beats, or wounds a process server. It does not have to be from the person who is the recipient of the document you are serving. For instance, lets say you are at an apartment complex and someone comes running up to you and punches you in the nose. That person has violated the Federal Law.

Most process servers carry a badge or some form of process server identification. Not because we are trying to impersonate police officers, but because we want to make darn sure that an attacker [or one who resists, obstructs, etc.] had reason to know that we were acting in an official capacity. Case law regarding Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501 tells us that the attacker [or one who resists, obstructs, etc.] does not have to know that we are serving process. Rather, they only need to know that a person is there for official business. Having a badge or ID hanging out in plain view implies "official business".


Title 18 U.S.C. § 1501 - Assault on Process Server
Whoever knowingly and willfully obstructs, resists, or opposes any officer of the United States, or other person duly authorized, in serving, or attempting to serve or execute, any legal or judicial writ or process of any court of the United States, or United States magistrate judge; or

Whoever assaults, beats, or wounds any officer or other person duly authorized, knowing him to be such officer, or other person so duly authorized, in serving or executing any such writ, rule, order, process, warrant, or other legal or judicial writ or process—

Shall, except as otherwise provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

Specific Functions of a Paralegal

I was asked to describe the paralegal services I provide in the simplest way possible. Here is my brief explanation as how I see and interpret my paralegal services:

The simplest explanation:
I, as a paralegal, am a disinterested third party who is credible, in the eyes of the court of law, who acts as a mediator when disputes arise between two or more parties.

Detailed explanation:

I, as a paralegal, am a disinterested third party who is credible, in the eyes of the court of law, who acts as a mediator when disputes arise between two or more parties. I am not an attorney, although the court recognizes me as a legal professional who has very similar obligations and duties as an attorney licensed to practice law.

As a paralegal I hold many different responsibilities, including, but not limited too the following:
  • Investigator = I must ensure that the information given to me is accurate. Additionally, I must investigate every aspect of a case I am requested to service – if there are any holes, it is my job to fill them.
  • Mediator = When disputes arise between two or more parties it is my job to get the parties to communicate. For instance, if property is confiscated by the police, and the owner of the property questions the police officers actions, it is my job to ensure that the police officer provides the property owner with (1) proof of confiscation and (2) I must ensure that the confiscation was justified by researching the law (i.e., general laws, federal laws, court rules, case law, etc.). My main objective, however, is to get the parties to communicate. Always remember, "where communication fails, confusion follows!"
  • Dispute Resolution = If there is a dispute, I must follow the law and reach a legal resolution.
  • Enforcer of the Law = If a crime has been committed, it is my ethical duty to inform the proper authorities. I may also have to bring criminals up on charges and provide the prosecutors with the evidence needed to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Evidence Technician = When it comes to civil cases, I may be the one who has to safeguard evidence for use at trial for a client.
  • Advocate = It is the paralegal who may have to represent a client before government agencies, police departments, board meetings, etc. Most government agencies, private organizations, the legal community, etc. all recognize Paralegals.
  • Counselor = When people are victimized, or families break up, I will be the one who will hear the clients story(ies). It is I who will comfort the client/victim and reassure them that things will get better.

Many people believe that a paralegal is like a legal secretary whose only job function is to draft documents for lawyers. If only this was true, my job would be easy! LOL Sometimes I am required to work with an attorney, other times I work independently.

Keep in mind that the above only deals with my paralegal services. I am also a Public Officer and [Court] Process Server.

I hope this answers your question.

--- KOREY ---