By Austin Nolen
Fired and charged with perjury in 2015, former Philadelphia Police Officer Christopher Hulmes is now free to join another Pennsylvania law enforcement agency — despite a new charge and conviction for drunk driving.
Hulmes admitted in 2011 to perjuring himself on the stand, but it took several years to open an investigation. Then, a year after he was charged, the District Attorney’s Office permitted him to enter a diversion program for first time offenders charged with minor crimes.
That decision was criticized by attorneys on the grounds that perjury by a police officer was not a crime minor enough to merit diversion.
In the diversion program, known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, defendants are not required to plead guilty and, if they successfully complete what amounts to a term of probation, they will not be prosecuted.
Many ARD participants also have their records expunged at the end of their probation.
Last June, Philadelphia’s Adult Probation Department certified that Hulmes completed his ARD program, effectively ending the case against him, despite the fact that he had been charged with DUI while in the program.
On February 6th, 2016, while Hulmes was out on bail in the perjury case, he was arrested by a Bensalem Township police officer who observed him drunk in his car, which was stopped partly in the roadway.
An arrest for any crime while out on bail permits prosecutors to seek the revocation of bail. The DA’s Office did not move to rescind or modify Hulmes’ bail after his arrest.
First Assistant District Attorney John Delaney told The Declaration that “if a defendant has an open case and has a new arrest, we would evaluate his bail situation” for possible revocation.
However, Delaney claimed that the Office was not aware of Hulmes’ arrest until very recently. “We did not know about the Bucks County case while he was on ARD,” he said, citing the Office’s large daily workload and the fact that the arrest occurred outside of Philadelphia.
Hulmes was not formally charged with DUI until after he entered the ARD program, and he pleaded guilty to those charges during his time in the program as well.
Delaney said that “where someone is arrested for a crime committed before he entered the program, we could look at that and say, based on everything we know, does that cast doubt on whether he can be rehabilitated and whether he should be removed?”
Despite his charges and conviction, the DA did not try to remove Hulmes from the ARD program. But Delaney claimed that by the time the Office learned of the case, the Probation Department had already certified Hulmes’ completion of the program.
“Had we been told about the DUI case,” he said, “we would have reevaluated our ARD decision, though I don’t know what decision we would have come to.”
According to Delaney, the practice in Philadelphia is that once completion is certified by the Probation Department, the DA can only object to expunging the case.
In September, Hulmes filed a petition to expunge his case, but after the DA filed its objections, Hulmes’ attorney made a motion to withdraw the expungement request, and a judge granted that motion last Tuesday.
Delaney defended the DA’s conduct in the case by saying that “after Hulmes was placed in ARD, he was treated like everyone else. We don’t have the capacity to check if everyone on ARD has been arrested again.”
Even though another judge ruled that Hulmes “forthrightly testified to the court that he lied consistently throughout to the… magistrate and that he lied at the preliminary hearing” in a Kensington drug and gun case, Hulmes will not have a record of conviction.
And though his record will not be sealed, Hulmes remains free to join another police department. As The Declaration reported last year, no state law bars someone with a record of ARD completion or with a misdemeanor conviction from becoming a police officer.
His ARD agreement only bars him from rejoining the Philadelphia Police Department.
Hulmes’ attorney did not respond to questions about whether his client will now seek to join another police force.
The Declaration will continue to follow this case to learn whether or not Hulmes joins another police department.