Edgett Law Firm | August 24, 2020 | Criminal Defense
The law applies to everyone, including police officers. Law enforcement officials must follow the same laws that everyone else follows. That includes when they are on duty and off duty.
If a police officer commits an illegal act, the police officer can be arrested and prosecuted. If the illegal act involves a suspect, any evidence connected to the legal act could be inadmissible in court.
For that reason, it is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney if you believe a police officer violated your rights or broke the law during an encounter or arrest. If the police officer did something illegal, you need to understand your rights and options for recourse.
False Arrests Can Lead to Evidence Being Inadmissible in Court
A police officer cannot arrest you without a legal reason. When police officers abuse their power to detain and arrest a person, any evidence gathered during the arrest may not be used in court against the person.
Some police officers use arrests as a way to obtain more evidence. The false arrest was just a tactic used to obtain the evidence needed to support an arrest and provide probable cause. Many people are not aware they are victims of an illegal arrest.
A criminal defense lawyer carefully analyzes the arrest to determine if the officer had probable cause before he made the arrest. If not, the attorney petitions the court to exclude all evidence recovered because of the arrest. If the judge excludes that evidence, the prosecution may have no choice but to drop the criminal charges.
Use of Excessive Force During an Arrest or Encounter
Police officers may use reasonable and necessary force to detain a suspect, protect the public, or protect themselves. However, the use of excessive force can lead to criminal charges against the police officer.
For example, if an officer shoots a suspect that is unarmed and not posing a lethal threat, the officer can be charged with homicide or manslaughter if the facts of the cases support those charges.
Deciding whether force was “excessive” can be challenging. You cannot recreate the exact moments that lead to the incident. However, if an encounter with the police resulted in harm to a suspect, it is best to have an attorney review the matter to determine if you have a claim for the use of excessive force.
Illegal Searches and Seizures
If an officer stops you, the officer can ask you and anyone in your vehicle to exit the car. However, the officer must have a valid reason to pull you over. Police officers are not supposed to initiate traffic stops without cause.
Likewise, the police officer must have probable cause to search you or the vehicle during a traffic stop, unless the officer has a valid search warrant. Probable cause is a reasonable belief that a crime is being or has been committed.
A traffic stop or other encounter with officers is not the time to argue the legality of a search. You may want to ask the officer politely why you were stopped and being searched, especially if the incident is being caught on video. However, it is not wise to provoke the officer or resist, as that could lead to other criminal charges or the use of excessive force.
Contact a defense lawyer as soon as possible to discuss fighting the charges or filing a complaint about an illegal search or illegal traffic stop.
A Police Officer Can Lie to You
It is not illegal for a police officer to lie to you. It is not illegal for other law enforcement agents to lie to you. Lying to suspects is a common tactic used by law enforcement officers to gain confessions or incriminating evidence.
You have the right to have an attorney present during all questioning. A police officer may tell you that only guilty people ask for attorneys or that the officer can help you only if you do not ask for an attorney.
It is always best to exercise your legal right to talk with a lawyer before you talk to the police. Talking to the police without an attorney almost always makes matters worse.
Other Things That Police Do That Are Illegal
There are many things that police officers do that are illegal. Police misconduct can be prosecuted and punished under numerous state and federal laws. Examples of police misconduct include, but are not limited to:
- Fabricating evidence
- Sexual misconduct
- False arrests
- Excessive use of force
- Witness tampering
- Physical assault
- Obstruction of justice
- Failure to intervene
As stated above, many individuals do not know that they are the victims of police misconduct until they meet with a criminal defense lawyer.
If you have been arrested, injured, or are unsure whether your rights were violated in an encounter with law enforcement officers, it is best to call an attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can explain your legal rights and review the case to determine if your rights were violated.