EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 11, 2013

Highest court to hear Plaistow man's drunk driving case

(Continued)

Prosecutors argued that because the two towns have a signed mutual aid agreement, the Merrimac officer was within his authority and his rights to detain Bartlett. It’s an argument backed by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, which submitted its own brief.

“The action of the on-duty, out-of-jurisdiction police officer in simply blocking an apparently impaired motorist’s vehicle in a parking lot until the local police arrived, even if the court were to find he was acing merely as a private citizen, was not an unreasonable seizure nor was he acting on behalf of the local police in doing so; therefore, there was no constitutional violation and any evidence obtained by the local police should not be suppressed,” the police chief’s association wrote in its brief.

The police chief’s association added it was obvious Sciacca was acting in good faith pursuant to a mutual aid agreement between the two communities and to grant Bartlett’s appeal would make it harder for police officers to get potentially dangerous motorists off the road.

Amesbury police currently have a mutual aid agreement with Salisbury and Newburyport as well as Merrimac.

After being indicted in Essex Superior Court in October of that year, a series of motions filed by Bartlett’s attorneys prolonged the case into 2011. In 2010, his attorney filed a motion to suppress evidence collected by local police, arguing that the Merrimac police officer had no right to stop him from leaving the parking lot because he was out of his jurisdiction.

A Superior Court judge was not convinced and denied the motion in April 2010. Bartlett appealed the judge’s decision leading to an appeals court judge, who denied his claim in November, 2010. In his February 2011 superior court trial, Bartlett was found guilty of OUI (fifth offense) and possession of a class D substance. He was found not guilty of possession of a class C substance.

That conviction was later dismissed by the state as Bartlett agreed to plead guilty to a similar OUI charge. Bartlett was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in state prison with three years probation but filed an appeal shortly thereafter.

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