Recently a Chandler police officer was reprimanded for approaching a Judge regarding a teenagers traffic violations. As David Michael Cantor, a Phoenix DUI Lawyer, discusses this is a serious miscalculation on the officers part.
Here is the Arizona Republic Story:
A Chandler police lieutenant has been reprimanded after an internal investigation found he had made a city judge “extremely uncomfortable” by coming to her courtroom to talk about a teenage friend’s traffic case.
Lieutenant Lucas Hunt, who supervises about 30 patrol sergeants and officers, got a letter of reprimand for unbecoming conduct after a May 24 conversation before City Court Judge Maria Brewer and a police officer about the juvenile’s tickets.
Brewer “felt he was asking her if there was something she could do to take care of the tickets,” the report says.
She said she felt Hunt did more than just ask about options, she surmised that Hunt was trying to “put information out there in the hopes that she would take care of the ticket.”
The teenager, the son of a friend of Hunt, attends Valley Christian High School in Chandler, where Hunt is an assistant junior varsity coach. With four moving violations, the youth was facing the loss of his driver’s license, and Hunt said the boy’s father asked him how to proceed.
Hunt said he went to court to ask such questions as how the family could retain a public defender, whether traffic school was an option, and “what can we do about this.”
Hunt, a former Traffic Unit supervisor who has been on the force about 20 years, told department investigators he had not written a ticket for a juvenile driver in about 15 years and was unaware of the process.
Although investigators concluded that Hunt showed poor judgment in discussing the tickets with the judge, they found that he did not use his influence to try to reduce or dismiss the four moving violations, the report says.
Hunt said he had already discussed the tickets with the sergeant who issued them, the Traffic Unit lieutenant and someone in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, but they had not answered his questions, according to the report.
“Lieutenant Hunt never made a specific recommendation about dismissing or reducing any charges,” wrote the professional standards commander. “However, this incident made Judge (Maria) Brewer and Officer (Scott) Williams feel extremely uncomfortable and gave the impression of impropriety.”
Hunt never named the teen or the sergeant who ticketed him, did not have a copy of the citations, and never asked the judge to reduce or dismiss them, investigators found.
Still, both the judge and Williams told investigators that it was inappropriate for Hunt to praise the student. Hunt described the juvenile as a “good kid” attempting to get home before curfew, the report says.
Williams said he believes “Lieutenant Hunt specifically contacted the judge to help out his friend.”
Hunt provided enough information about the traffic case that Brewer recognized the juvenile when he appeared, and she felt compelled to change the venue to another courtroom and another judge.
The letter of reprimand will stay in his personnel file for three years, said Sgt. Joe Favazzo, a spokesman. Hunt has no other complaints, which expire after three years, in his file, Favazzo said.
Neither Brewer nor Hunt would comment on the incident.
“The investigation concluded that he did not attempt to fix a ticket, but as a department, we don’t want a uniformed officer to address the court in this manner, and we felt it fell under the category of unbecoming conduct,” Favazzo said.