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Resident surprised man pulled over for him
By Carolyn Kessel Stewart / Daily News Staff
Thursday, July 7, 2005

SOUTHBOROUGH -- A wary resident who spotted a car swerving back and forth in front of him and took it upon himself to pull over the driver was surprised by the results of his attempt at a "citizen's arrest."

Steve Travis and his girlfriend had just pulled out of their driveway on Southville Road and were on their way to watch fireworks Sunday night, when a man in a blue Ford Taurus headed toward them, running over the curb and then crossing the two-lane road.

"He went off the road," Travis said. Then "he swerved into our side of the lane."

Travis said he told his girlfriend to turn their truck around. Stopped at a red light, "I got out and I told him to pull over," Travis said. "I thought he was drunk....He was just dangerous. I didn't want him to continue."

Not only did Travis convince the man to pull over, but he told him to hand over his license and registration.

"I just asked for it, and he gave it to me. I was kind of surprised myself (when he did.)"

Travis called 911 and described the situation to the Southborough Police dispatcher.

"He was driving up the street and literally the side of the street...he hit a curb...and I pulled him over."

"Are you a police officer?" the dispatcher asked during the 911 call.

"No, I'm just a concerned citizen. I saw it happen."

"So where is he right now?" the dispatcher asked.

"I got him pulled over. I got his license and registration in my hand."

Travis told police he was convinced the man was drunk. "I was doing what I thought was right," he said.

"Now, I'm like, 'What the hell did I do?'" Travis said after realizing the potentially dangerous situation he had put himself in. Police arrived at the scene and told Travis not to do something like this again.

Erondy Dos Santos Rates of Framingham was not charged with drunken driving. Rates, 36, of 155 Second St., Apt. 132, was arrested and charged with driving without a license, refusing to identify himself and possession or use of false Registry of Motor Vehicle documents, police said. He gave police an unknown Brazilian document instead of a license

He did not appear for his arraignment in Westborough District Court Tuesday.

Police Chief William Webber said Rates spoke no English, but did communicate to police that he was on his cell phone before being "pulled over."

True citizen's arrests are rare, said attorney Randy Chapman, a former Essex County assistant district attorney and former chairman of the criminal justice section at the Massachusetts Bar Association.

There is no specific law in Massachusetts regarding citizen's arrests, but the courts have decided the citizen making the arrest must witness a felony, such as a robbery, breaking and entering or selling narcotics. And the citizen who makes the arrest can be sued if the person is not convicted of the felony. Driving under the influence is not a felony, unless it is a third offense.

Travis said yesterday he was not aware of the repercussions that could result from a citizen's arrest.

Chapman said he never hears of citizens pulling each other over on the road, but he has heard of motor vehicle accidents in which one person will try to leave the scene, and the other driver takes away their keys or holds the person against the car to keep them from getting away.

Chapman, who defends drivers accused of driving under the influence, said he has seen drivers become much more vigilant, calling police about erratic drivers and following them until police arrive.

"Everybody wants to be (a) cop," Chapman said.

But people should think twice before they start imitating what they see on television, said Jack Collins, general counsel for the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association.

"Every state really discourages citizen's arrests," he said. "This is really something that should be left to the police."
Sometimes it works out for the best. "We've had citizens in Shrewsbury who grabbed a person robbing a bank" and held him until police came, he said.

"Other times the person is going to regret they did it....If you hold someone against their will, it's either kidnapping or arrest."
 
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