Police Misconduct in Criminal Cases

As former prosecutors, we have personally dealt with law enforcement on many occasions. Through our experience, we can say that most of the law enforcement officers are good men and women who are doing their best to protect and serve. They are carrying out their duties with good faith. But, we’d be foolish to say that all police officers and detectives have good intentions.

If all cops were good, we wouldn’t hear about wrongful convictions, false and coerced confessions, and DNA exonerations. The cold hard truth is that there are a few “bad apples” on the force who abuse their power, falsify evidence, physically abuse suspects, lie under oath, and go after innocent people.

These officers commit what’s called “police misconduct” and if a suspect is a victim of this dishonest behavior, it can impact their life for the worse if they ultimately face criminal charges connected with a “compromised criminal case.”

What Does Police Misconduct Involve?

According to the California Innocence Project, “Police misconduct encompasses illegal or unethical actions or the violation of individuals’ constitutional rights by police officers in the conduct of their duties.”

Here are some examples of police misconduct:

  • Fraud
  • Torture
  • Coercion
  • Unlawful police stops
  • Police brutality
  • Sexual assault
  • Sexual favors for leniency
  • Falsifying evidence
  • Planting evidence
  • Stealing evidence
  • Disposing of evidence
  • Abuse of power
  • Unlawful search and seizures

All of the examples on the above list have occurred on hundreds, if not thousands of occasions in different jurisdictions throughout the nation. Whenever police misconduct occurs, it increases the likelihood of the suspect or defendant being wrongfully convicted. So, are we as criminal defense attorneys concerned about police misconduct? You bet we are. It’s deplorable, counterproductive, and has the ability to undermine criminal cases.

Even though “torture” is on the list, it’s less common than other forms of police misconduct. Usually, police misconduct is harder to detect, it’s subtler. It can mean lying to a suspect to get a false confession out of them. It can mean threatening a witness who’s unsure of an identification and convincing him or her to identify a specific suspect despite uncertainty.

Overzealous Law Enforcement

The police are supposed to keep our communities safe, but sometimes a case is difficult to crack and they don’t have any reliable suspects. Sometimes, their zeal to solve a case will go too far. They will use the power of their badges to cross the line and try and convict innocent suspects. Meaning, they’ll try to solve a case and take it to trial though they know it lacks sufficient evidence.

Then, there’s the issue of other officers who know that police misconduct is occurring, but out of loyalty for their fellow officers or even their bosses, they’ll keep quiet about it. Is police misconduct happening here in Florida? Unfortunately, it is. Our state is not immune.

The Florida Innocence Project, which stands up for innocent defendants to protect them against false confessions has many stories to share. In one true story, two former police officers who worked in Biscayne Park, a Miami suburb, were charged after they framed innocent African Americans for the purpose of improving their department’s record for solving crimes.

“In Broward County, Anthony Caravella spent 26 years in prison for a rape and murder he did not commit until DNA proved his innocence. Caravella, an intellectually disabled teenager, falsely confessed to the crime after enduring five days of physical and mental abuse by detectives,” according to the Florida Innocence Project. To see more real-life stories of police misconduct, click here.

If you are a victim of police misconduct and you’re now facing criminal charges, it’s vital that you’re adequately protected. To explore your legal defenses and learn more about your rights under the law, contact our Tampa criminal defense firm today.

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