If you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime in Florida, there are a number of defenses that may be available to you (depending on what crimes you have been charged with) — for example, if you have been charged with simple drug possession, then you could potentially avoid criminal liability by showing that the arresting officer did not establish reasonable suspicion before stopping you, or by showing that the arresting officer did not establish probable cause before conducting a search of your person (or vehicle).
Officer misconduct is common and may have a significant effect on the prosecution of your particular case. Law enforcement officers have substantial authority, and as such, there is ample opportunity for abuse. This leaves criminal defendants in an unenviable position. If an officer arbitrarily decides that you’ve “disrespected them,” for example, then he or she may engage in misconduct that could hurt your case — for example, the officer could plant evidence in your pocket. Despite the fact that the conduct of law enforcement officers has become a hot topic in American popular discourse, misconduct — whether intentional or simply a function of negligence — is often brushed aside and ignored.
Evidence of prior misconduct may still be helpful in your case, however. With the aid of a skilled criminal defense attorney, you may be able to undermine the legitimacy of evidence produced by the arresting officer, thus increasing the likelihood that you avoid criminal liability for the charges altogether.
An Arresting Officer’s Prior Misconduct May Be Introduced
Depending on the nature of the arresting officer’s prior misconduct, it may be introduced as evidence into the case. Once introduced, you may be able to call into question certain facts in the case.
For example, if the arresting officer has been disciplined in the past for having interfered with evidence at a crime scene, then introducing evidence of such misconduct will give you — the defendant — an opportunity to undermine the legitimacy of the evidence produced in your own case. Further, it may be used to impeach the arresting officer and prevent their testimony from being considered by the jury.
Evidence of an Officer’s Past Convictions
Evidence of an officer’s own criminal history — if it is recent and relevant — may be admitted and thus allow for the impeachment of that officer.
Evidence of an Officer’s Past Misconduct
Evidence of an officer’s past misconduct may also be admitted, but not all evidence — only that which is part of the public record. In Florida, the courts have generally found that police discipline is a matter of public record, but that certain internal administrative records may not be admissible.
Unfortunately, many police departments are aware of these rules and will avoid “formally” disciplining an officer when possible. Instead, they may “informally” discipline the officer, which would constitute an internal administrative procedure that is not admissible as evidence.
Contact Our Team of Experienced Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorneys for Assistance
Here at the Fowler Law Group, we have spent decades providing comprehensive legal assistance to Florida criminal defendants battling a wide range of charges — from DUIs, to drug crimes, to assault and battery, and more.
We understand that an impending criminal prosecution can weigh heavily on one’s mind, and that the penalties are frequently so severe that there is little-to-no room for error. As such, we are committed to thorough legal representation, and from the very beginning of the process, we work closely with our clients to ensure that we have all the information necessary to present an effective defense. This approach has helped us build a long and successful track record in Florida criminal defense.
Call (941) 900-3100 today to get in touch with one of the experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys here at Fowler Law Group.