Career criminal might earn acquittal for unlawful arrest

POSTED: 09/29/11 1:58 PM

St. Maarten – Maurice S. is making a name for himself in St. Maarten, but his career is nothing to be proud of. On February 28 he was conditionally released from the Pointe Blanche prison, but within three months, on May 23, he resumed his criminal career with a burglary in a house on the King of the Seas Road.

On June 13 he was at it again; this time he burglarized a home on the Blue Bell Road. It was also the day his luck ran out – again. An alert citizen called the police reporting that there was a suspicious car in the neighborhood. A police patrol went out to investigate, found the car and in it, the defendant with two others and stolen goods.

From the house on the King of the Seas Road a laptop and a fishing line disappeared. The catch for the second burglary consisted of a digital camera and money. Forensic investigators found the defendant’s finger prints at the scene of the first burglary.

Defense attorney mr. Geert Hatzmann asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible on the grounds that the Judge of Instruction had ruled his client’s arrest unlawful. S. was arrested on June 13, but according to the Judge of Instruction there were no facts or circumstances that could lead to a reasonable suspicion of guilt.

“The Judge of Instruction ordered my client’s immediate release at 11:20 a.m. on June 16,” Hatzmann said.

“He should have left the courthouse a free man. Instead he was taken to the police station where he was arrested again at 16:20 p.m. on suspicion of involvement in another burglary. He has been detained for six hours without a legal basis.”

mr. Hatzmann said that the second arrest was based on a fingerprint report from the forensic department.

“If my client had not been unlawfully arrested this would never have come into the picture. This had caused irreparable damage to my client’s interests.”

Prosecutor mr. G. van der Wulp however, maintained that the arrest on June 13 was justified. She pointed out that the defendant had been released under conditions on February 28. He has prior conviction for burglary in 2008, 2009, and 2010. In 2008 he was sentenced to a 30-month conditional sentence, but last year the court sent him to prison for 11 months. After his conditional release the defendant was supposed to report to the Rehabilitation Bureau for Supervision, but he never did. S. told the court that nobody had informed him about this.

Prosecutor van der Wulp said that finger prints found at the home on the King of the Seas Road matched those of the defendant; she added that there is no difference between committing a burglary and fencing stolen goods, and demanded a 9-month prison sentence.

mr. Hatzmann said that he had not found an explanation in the file why the car police stopped on June 13 had been labeled suspicious.

“You cannot just detain anybody just like that,” he said.

The attorney asked the court to exclude evidence for both burglaries.

“That his finger prints were found at the scene on the King of the Seas road does not look good for my client, but his arrest was unlawful,” Hatzmann said.

He asked the court to declare the prosecution inadmissible and if that request was denied, he asked for an acquittal. He also asked the court to consider two months sentence reduction for time his client had spent too long in a police cell and a further sentence reduction for his unlawful arrest.

Judge mr. M. Keppels withdrew to mull things over, but when she returned she told the defendant that she needed more time. The Judge will pronounce her verdict on October 12.

“If I come earlier to the conclusion that your detention must be suspended, I will let you know,” she said.

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