When they begin their careers, police officers take an oath that swears they will have integrity, be brave, and honor the law and their community. Unfortunately, not every officer who takes this oath maintains these standards.
In general, police misconduct involves unethical or illegal actions that violate your constitutional rights. New headlines often focus on physical misconduct–known as police brutality–but this behavior includes a wide range of actions that might impact how a criminal case plays out.
The many forms of police misconduct include the behaviors below.
- False confession obtained by force or threats (known as coercion)
- False imprisonment
- Falsification of evidence
- Police perjury
- Police brutality
- Profiling people by race
- Surveillance without the legal authority to do so
- Search and/or seizure of property without the legal authority to do so
- Sexual misconduct
How can police misconduct affect a criminal case?
In a criminal case, your lawyer from Richard J. Banta, P.C., works to raise “reasonable doubt” in the jury’s mind. When a jury has reasonable doubt, that means they cannot say for certain that a defendant is guilty. When there is misconduct by police officers in a case, it can call the credibility of the evidence presented into question and impact how a jury, judge and prosecutor interpret the facts.
A prosecutor, for example, is usually the first person to review what could become a criminal case if they decide to pursue it. Many times, the report from the police is the only evidence available to the prosecutor as they consider whether to file charges against someone. However, a preliminary police report might be incorrect and/or limited in its information. A witness could lie, or bias on the behalf of an officer might result in the willful or unintentional misrepresentation of the events. Police may have engaged in misconduct, coloring the entire case.
At this point, your defense attorney will work to uncover the truth about what happened. They may be able to gather evidence and present it to the prosecution, resulting in a dismissed case or reduced charges in light of the new information.
Of course, police misconduct isn’t always clear, and sometimes the evidence of it is not enough to sway a jury or the prosecutor. In these types of cases, a defendant might take a plea agreement or be wrongfully convicted. But that’s not the end of the case; criminal convictions are subject to review by another court, which means the defense has another opportunity to address potential police misconduct.
If you believe police did not behave appropriately in your case, speak to a criminal lawyer for help immediately. Being convicted of a crime will impact your life in many ways. You could lose your job or even your freedom. Instead of taking chances with so much on the line, it’s wise to work with experienced legal representation to protect your rights. Proving police misconduct isn’t always easy, but with an attorney on your side, you’ll have a much better chance of doing so.
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