September 28, 2021 | Criminal Defense
Uncovering police misconduct can be a critical component of a strong criminal defense.
Police misconduct in a criminal case can result in:
- The court excluding tainted evidence
- The court or prosecutor dismissing the case
- Reduced police credibility with the court and jury
- The jury acquitting a defendant of criminal charges
Now let’s dive into some examples of police misconduct that may be relevant to your case. Every case is different, so be sure to consult with the experienced Dayton criminal defense attorneys to determine if the police violated your rights before or during your arrest.
1. Racial Profiling
Racial profiling often overlaps with other types of police misconduct, such as police brutality. Law enforcement officers engage in racial profiling when they investigate, detain, or arrest someone for a crime based solely on their race.
The police are prohibited from treating people differently based on race. If you were racially profiled, this could undercut the State of Ohio’s case against you.
2. Mishandling Evidence
A famous example of police mishandling evidence is the O.J. Simpson case. In the O.J. Simpson investigation for the murder of Nicole Brown, the police botched the collection and processing of crucial evidence. His criminal defense team was able to win his case based largely on mishandled evidence.
Just one example of mishandled evidence was the handling of O.J. Simpson’s blood. His blood was drawn very early in the investigation by police. The police did not document how much blood they drew, and the person who drew the blood said they thought they drew 8mL. Only 6mL of his blood was accounted for.
This let the defense team argue that the blood was at the very least mishandled and, therefore, unreliable evidence. At worst, some may have been planted.
3. Police Brutality
Police brutality is a huge breach of the trust society places in the police. A horrific example of police brutality is the Rodney King case in Los Angeles in 1991. The police tried to stop Mr. King for speeding. He had been drinking and was scared to stop.
When the white police officers pulled him over, they proceeded to taze him, viciously beat him with batons, and kick him. All of it was captured on camera. Rodney King ultimately won a civil suit against the officers for the brutality he experienced.
4. Lying on Reports or in Testimony
A high-profile case of a police officer lying in police reports is the Walter Scott case. Walter Scott was shot and killed by officer Michael Slager in 2015 in South Carolina. There had been a police chase and a physical altercation. The officer tased Mr. Scott, who then turned and ran away.
When he was about 20 feet away, the officer shot Mr. Scott multiple times. Then the officer walked over and put his taser next to Mr. Scott’s body. On the police report, the officer said he feared for his life after Walter Scott took his taser on the police report.
There is a reason that many police departments are now required to use body cameras. If not for bystander video footage, the officer in the Walter Scott case may have gotten away with lying to justify his actions.
5. Planting Evidence
The Walter Scott case discussed above is a prime example of how evidence planting occurs. Police may plant evidence like Officer Slager did to corroborate their story to protect themselves. More commonly, evidence is planted to secure a conviction.
Officers may think someone is guilty of a crime but know they don’t have enough evidence to convict them. Planting evidence could be the only way for them to ensure a conviction of who they believe is guilty. Regardless of why it happened, it is wrongful, criminal police misconduct.
6. Violating Constitutional Rights
Good criminal defense attorneys are familiar with how police violate people’s constitutional rights to unlawfully obtain evidence. One common form of police misconduct is to obtain a confession without a Miranda warning advising you of your right to remain silent. This violates your constitutional rights, meaning the confession cannot be used against you in court.
Police have to be creative to get away with a Miranda violation these days because everyone is looking out for it. One tactic they sometimes try is to get a confession, then give Miranda warnings. The suspect, thinking the case is lost since they already confessed, has no problem confessing a second time. The officer then says they gave the Miranda warning.
Good criminal defense attorneys like the Suhre & Associates Dayton team know about these tricks and will fight back against them.
7. Witness Tampering
Witness tampering can completely change the course of a criminal case. A recent example of witness tampering occurred in Hawaii in 2018. Police Officer Anthony Maldonado stole money out of a vehicle he had stopped. The victim made a police report about the stolen money.
Police then conspired to get the victim to change his story and drop the complaint. Officer Maldonado ultimately pled guilty to conspiracy to commit witness tampering for his misconduct.
8. Substance Abuse on the Job
Police officers are forbidden from using substances while on the job. Errors in judgment due to substance use can have serious ramifications for the accused. If substance use by officers is uncovered in your case, it can impact the credibility of everything that the officer did. This happens more often than you may think.
For instance, in Georgia, an officer was recently fired for getting drunk while he completed his police reports. Officer Kevin McDonald had a 20-year career, so we can’t help but wonder how many people were wrongfully convicted due to police reports he completed while drunk.
9. Sexual Assault and Rape
Sometimes police officers can become drunk with power and authority and commit disgusting acts of sexual assault and rape against community members. This is what happened in the case of Officers Eddie Martins and Richard Hall.
Officers Martins and Hall were New York City police officers. They arrested a young woman for possession of marijuana, then proceeded to rape and sexually assault her in a police vehicle. They tried to silence her by threatening her with criminal charges. Instead, it was the police who faced serious criminal charges when their crimes were uncovered.
10. False Arrest and Malicious Prosecution
One sickening example of false arrest and malicious prosecution is the Chicago case of Rachelle Jackson. Ms. Jackson became entangled in the justice system through no fault of her own. She saw Chicago police get in a car accident, and she rushed to help the injured officers.
After pulling an officer out of the smashed-up car, she was interrogated and arrested by responding officers accusing her of stealing the police officer’s weapon. Rachelle Jackson spent 10 months in jail before a judge threw out the case. She then sued the city for police misconduct and won millions of dollars in damages.