Police misconduct happens more often than is reported. It can go undocumented or end up with an innocent person getting convicted. Every month we learn of another person who has been wrongfully accused of a crime or released from jail or even death row because the courts eventually determined that the person who was prosecuted was innocent. Well known examples include: Abner Louima, Rodney King, and three Duke University lacrosse team members who were wrongfully charged with rape. What chance do these people have of living a normal life after the police have so blatantly violated their constitutional rights?
Some police have withheld evidence, threatened witnesses and even coerced others to lie under oath and give false testimony. Police misconduct includes but is not limited to intentionally making a false arrest, planting evidence, removing evidence, fabricating evidence, threatening witnesses, harassing witnesses, and using excessive force.
When police violate the constitutional rights of a citizen, it is called police misconduct and can subject the officer as well as the police department to both civil and criminal penalties. Perhaps the most common form of police misconduct is when an officer physically abuses a citizen.
In the area of civil misconduct, it is unlawful for a police officer to engage in conduct that deprives a person of their constitutional rights. However, the victim must show that the act constitutes a pattern of misconduct and was not just a single isolated incident. A police officer is also prohibited from engaging in discriminatory practices. To be a victim of discrimination, you must be able to prove that there is a pattern of discriminatory misconduct rather than merely a single incident. Examples of civil discriminatory misconduct include: harassment; racial slurs; unjustified arrests; discriminatory traffic stops; and coercive sexual contact.
Examples of Police and Prosecutorial Misconduct
- During the 1990’s, police in Huguenot, NY forced 17-year-old Kevin K. to sign a confession to the murder of EA (initials are being used out of respect for the family). Kevin spent 18 months in jail before the local court suppressed the confession and dismissed the state’s case as lacking. In early 2009, a DNA test conclusively identified another person as EA’s rapist and killer.
- In Texas, police were accused of allegedly torturing more than 200 criminal suspects between 1972 and 1991, in order to force confessions. Some of the people who confessed to murder were later granted new trials – some were acquitted or pardoned.
- Another example involves one of Chicago’s most feared Judges, Thomas J. Maloney. He was a judge in Cook County for 13 years until his indictment and conviction for taking money to fix murder cases. He was convicted of taking bribes to fix three separate murder trials as well as other charges. Mr. Maloney shared in $100,000 in bribes to acquit three New York gang members accused of killing a rival in Chicago’s Chinatown in 1981. He served 12 years and 3 months of a sentence of roughly 15 years.
- In Pennsylvania, prosecutors are reviewing hundreds of criminal cases after discovering significant inaccuracies in one analyst’s work. Even the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has faced accusations of producing shoddy scientific work and presenting inaccurate testimony with respect to DNA evidence.
If you have been a victim of police misconduct, you need strong intelligent advice. When the State accuses you of a crime, they come at you with full force. Whether you are guilty or not, the State has police, prosecutors, investigators, federal resources, and an unlimited budget. As a single criminal defendant, it is almost impossible to protect yourself against the state’s power alone. For this reason, if you have been wrongfully charged or convicted of a crime, or you have been the victim of police misconduct, you need a very skilled and experienced lawyer.
Please contact the Law Offices of Douglas C. Anton, Esq. for a case evaluation and to schedule an appointment.
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