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Police Misconduct

Have you been a victim of police misconduct?

First of all, there is a difference between a rude cop and a corrupt cop. There is also a difference between feeling as though your civil rights have been trampled on and actually being on the receiving end of illegal police activity.

I heard a great quote in a police drama series on TV the other night:

"We hold police officers to a higher standard because they wear badges and carry guns. The problem is, they're recruited from the human race."

Very true. Police officers, like all professionals, are humans first and foremost. They have human emotions and sometimes let their anger or frustration get the best of them. Being a police officer is a dangerous, often thankless, and very stressful job. Keeping a cool, level head is a necessary job skill. But like all people, sometimes they snap and simply react based on how they are feeling at the moment.

If you give a cop attitude, you will accomplish nothing. You may end up getting arrested when you could have gotten away with a citation or nothing at all. Protect your rights, don't consent to a search if you don't want to, don't make a statement if you don't want to. But above all, be respectful, calm, and polite. Let your attorney deal with the legality of the situation later.

But how the cop reacts to your attitude is key. If you mouth off to a cop and they drag you out of your car and beat the holy hell out of you, that's not a warranted response. That's police brutality. And you're the victim of a crime.

But more than their fists and flashlights, a cop's most dangerous weapon is the pen. More often than instances of police brutality are instances of police officers writing reports that do not accurately reflect the incident. Did the officer omit critical information from the report? Did the officer make up facts? Did the officer state that you consented to a search when you did not? Did the officer claim that you made a statement when you really remained silent.

The problem with a lot of police encounters is that they are one-on-one. Your word versus the cop's word. However, if you can remain calm and accurately relay to your attorney the true facts, your attorney may be able to use the discovery process, through the taking of depositions, to get the officer to make inconsistent statements.

When you lie you need to continue to lie, and sometimes create new and bigger lies in order to cover up the original lies. Police officers handle a lot of cases, and as time passes, they may not recall their original statements. This is how cops make inconsistent statements. Their initial report says one thing. But five months later in deposition, they say another thing.

Defense attorneys use these inconsistent statements to impeach cops' testimonies during trial and pre-trial hearings. Even better, sometimes a deposition transcript showing a cop's inconsistencies can be used to get the state to offer a great plea or even drop the case.

Cops do not have to be nice to you. Some are, most aren't. They will be firm and have a no-nonsense approach. Just because they don't smile and wish you well doesn't mean that you are the victim of misconduct.

Furthermore, many clients come to me and tell me that the cop didn't read them their rights. Your Miranda rights only need to be read to you if you are in police custody (under arrest or not free to leave) AND the police are asking you questions pertaining to your charge. If they ask for your name and date of birth, the law considers those to be routine booking questions and are not subject to Miranda protections.

While failing to read you your rights prior to a custodial interrogation is a legal violation, it is not misconduct. A cop cannot be disciplined, arrested, or sued for failing to read a suspect their rights. If the cop claims they read you your rights when they didn't is another story. However, you must inform you attorney if you were under arrest and questioned about your alleged offense and your rights were never read.

In conclusion, police misconduct hurts everyone. It hurts people accused of crimes. It hurts the public's trust in law enforcement officers. It hurts a prosecutor's ability to bring charges against a person if the cop's integrity and credibility are in question.

If you have been arrested, you have encountered a police officer. Discuss with your criminal defense attorney the specifics of that encounter to see if the actions of the police amount to police misconduct.