It's a frightening thought when the people we trust to protect us, uphold justice and serve our communities mishandle an investigation. Unfortunately, it happens more often than we'd like to think.
The consequences of police mishandling an investigation can be severe and long-lasting.
Innocent persons may be falsely accused and convicted, leading to ruined lives and shattered families. Communities can lose trust in law enforcement, causing further strife and division.
The case of the Central Park Five is one the heartbreaking examples of police mishandling investigation, leading to wrongful convictions. Five teenagers were coerced into giving false confessions for the rape and assault of a jogger in Central Park. It took nearly two decades for their innocence to be proven, thanks to DNA evidence and the actual perpetrator confessing to the crime.
If you believe that your case has been mishandled by the police and want more information in trying to prove it, contact a skilled and dedicated criminal defense attorney at Touma Law Group.
How Criminal Investigations Are Mishandled
While it goes without saying that not all police officers are corrupt or incompetent, there are a few ways that investigations can be mishandled.
Here are the most common issues:
Coercion and Force
This is typically done during interrogations, where the police may use intimidation, psychological tactics, or physical force to get a suspect to confess. However, this can lead to false confessions and wrongful convictions, as seen in the Central Park Five case.
As reported by The Innocence Project, false confessions were a factor in about 25% of wrongful convictions that were overturned by DNA evidence.
Understanding your rights during interrogation is crucial and having a criminal attorney present is vital.
Making Deals or Offering Leniency in Exchange for False Testimony
Quite often, police will offer deals or leniency to a witness or suspect in exchange for testimony that helps their case.
This behavior of police officers is unethical and can lead to false accusations, as the witness or suspect may provide false information to receive the promised benefit.
Failing to Investigate Thoroughly
Arguably, this is one of the biggest issues in police mishandling.
Failing to investigate all leads properly, gather critical evidence, and interview witnesses can result in a flawed case and potentially innocent people being charged. Victims are often not taken seriously or not believed, particularly in cases of sexual assault.
This further hinders investigations and can lead to perpetrators staying on the streets.
Planting or Tampering With Critical Evidence
In some cases, police staff or officers have been caught planting or tampering with critical evidence to bolster their case against a suspect, even if that suspect is innocent.
Related Content: Understanding Your 4th Amendment Rights
This practice not only goes against ethics and protocol ("Police Misconduct") and can lead to wrongful convictions.
Bias and Prejudice
Police officers, just like any person, can bring their personal biases into an investigation. This can include racial discrimination or prejudice against certain socioeconomic groups. And it manifests in various ways, from targeting specific demographics for an investigation to giving lighter sentences to those deemed "more worthy" or "deserving."
These biases can affect an investigation and may result in innocent individuals being targeted or accused.
While this is only sometimes intentional, it can significantly impact the outcomes of investigations and cases.
Ignoring or Hiding Exculpatory Evidence
Exculpatory evidence is information or evidence that could prove a suspect's innocence. It's the job of law enforcement to gather and present all evidence, both incriminating and exculpatory, during a case.
However, some officers may ignore or hide this type of evidence to secure a conviction, even if it means sending an innocent person to prison.
What Determines a Botched Investigation?
Ultimately, it is up to the courts to determine whether an investigation was mishandled.
However, there are a few red flags that may indicate mishandling, such as:
- The suspect alleges coercion or force during questioning
- Physical evidence contradicts witness testimony
- Witnesses recant their statements
- Evidence is found to have been tampered with or planted
- There are inconsistencies in the police report or officers' testimonies
- The suspect was exonerated through DNA evidence, or another perpetrator confessed (e.g., sexual assault).
Grounds on Which Cases Get Thrown Out of Court?
Understandably, if there is evidence of police misconduct or mishandling during the investigation, it can lead to the case getting thrown out of court. In some cases, this may result in a dismissal and the charges being dropped altogether.
Other legal procedures that may cause a case to be thrown out include failing to read the suspect their Miranda Rights (to remain silent and consult with an attorney), illegally obtained evidence, and violating the suspect's rights.
For example, if a suspect's Fourth Amendment rights were violated during the investigation (such as unlawful search and seizure), it can lead to evidence being deemed inadmissible in court.
Another legal procedure that may result in a case being thrown out is if the statute of limitations has passed. This means that too much time has elapsed since the alleged crime occurred, and thus the suspect cannot be prosecuted.
In instances like this, the case may not necessarily be thrown out due to police mishandling, but it can still lead to the suspect avoiding conviction. For example, the statute of limitations for rape (given its peculiarity) in some states is ten years, so if a case involving rape is not brought to trial within that time frame, the suspect cannot be charged.
What Happens if the Case is Thrown Out?
Many people may assume that if a case is thrown out, the suspect walks away with a clean record. However, this is only sometimes the case.
The charges may be dismissed in some instances but can still appear on background checks. Even though the suspect was not convicted, the allegations and arrest can still have negative consequences.
Additionally, the prosecution may choose to refile charges at a later date if new evidence surfaces or if there were procedural errors in the previous case. To illustrate, if a case is thrown out due to illegally obtained evidence, the prosecution may choose to refile charges once they obtain the evidence through legal means.
It is important to note that expungement may be an option for those who have had their cases thrown out or dismissed. This can seal arrest and court records, giving the individual a clean record in the eyes of the law.
However, expungement laws vary by state, and specific criteria must be met to qualify.
Ultimately, it is essential for both law enforcement agencies and the justice system to accurately and reasonably handle criminal investigations to avoid miscarriages of justice.
In a perfect world, police would always handle investigations with integrity and care. But until we reach that point, it's important to understand the consequences of mishandling and know what steps to take if it occurs.
Unfortunately, police mishandling does occur and can have devastating consequences for both the innocent suspects and the victims of the crime. It is vital to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for their actions and ensure they conduct thorough and unbiased investigations.
Remember, it's not just about justice for the individual suspect- it's about ensuring that the entire justice system runs fairly and accurately.
Call Touma Law Group Today if You Believe Your Case Has Been Mishandled
If you believe that the police are mishandling an investigation involving yourself or a loved one, it's essential to seek legal counsel immediately.
You considered filing a complaint against the officer(s) involved at the Police Department for necessary disciplinary action. The experienced criminal attorneys at Touma Law Group are dedicated and committed to protecting your rights and fighting for justice. Contact us today for a consultation at 864-618-2323.