We want to trust that people in positions of authority, like police officers, conduct thorough investigations with integrity and honesty. However, even officers of the law can make mistakes in an investigation that leads to the violation of a suspect’s rights, false imprisonment, excessive force, and even police misconduct.
The professionals at the Law Offices of J.M. Kotzker, P.C. have represented clients who are victims of cases with the police force involved.
Whether due to an honest mistake or an incident you believe was the result of police misconduct or corruption, it’s important to have a law firm that understands the unique circumstances of your case. Handling a criminal case involving police failures or criminal misconduct on the part of the police takes the talents of criminal defense lawyers who are honest, ethical, and experienced.
Definition And Overview Of Law Enforcement Officers’ Failure To Investigate Properly
When someone reports a crime to the police, we expect that a thorough investigation will take place. However, there are times when the police officers assigned to a case fail to perform the duties needed to collect the necessary evidence which could lead to reasonable doubt and an arrest.
When police conduct results in the arrest of the wrong person or when officers fail to collect enough evidence to bring about probable cause against a suspect, it can lead toward a ripple effect of the judicial system failing. When this happens, the individuals affected by the failures of police officers have the right to file a criminal suit or civil suit against the specific police officer or police department.
Causes of Police Officer Inadequacy in Investigations
The term “failure to investigate properly” covers several issues related to the police force’s inadequate handling of a case.
This can include any of the following:
- Failure to secure a crime scene.
- Failure to properly collect evidence related to the case.
- Failure to interview witnesses.
- Failure to maintain the appropriate chain of custody.
- The unlawful searching of you or your property.
- Failure to serve a suspect their Miranda rights upon arrest.
- The use of excessive force.
- Sexual assault or sexual coercion by a law enforcement officer.
- Other certain circumstances where your rights are violated.
- A situation where you were discriminated against by police.
Consequences of Police Unethical Police Conduct
If the police’s response to a crime you were a victim of was inadequate or if your rights were violated in a criminal investigation, our police misconduct lawyers can fight for justice on your behalf. Depending on the details of your individual case, our law firm can represent you in a civil or criminal case against a law enforcement agency or police officer. Both civil and criminal lawsuits come with consequences for police officers.
Some of the potential consequences of police officers who have exhibited unethical actions in their pledge to protect and serve are:
- A warning on their file.
- Reduction in rank.
- Suspension from the police force.
- Being fired from their position.
- Criminal charges in special circumstances.
- Financial expenses to pay damages.
Mistakes That Could Have Been Made In Your Criminal Investigation
Despite most police officers working ethically to solve criminal investigations, there are instances where police incompetency, inaction, and even misconduct can affect the outcome of a case.
Our NC criminal defense law firm has represented clients whose rights were violated by the police as well as clients who were falsely accused of committing a crime. Other areas where someone may experience police misconduct are when a crime is reported, and the police fail to properly perform an investigation.
Let’s look at some of the details of types of complaints made by victims of police officers.
Not Giving Miranda Warnings and Violating Other Constitutional Rights
One of our country’s basic constitutional rights is that a person cannot be arrested and charged with a crime without being served Miranda warnings. Miranda rights are when, upon a suspect’s arrest, the arresting officer explains to the suspect that he or she has the fifth Amendment right not to make incriminating statements about themself.
The Miranda rights that must be given upon a suspect’s arrest are:
- The right to remain silent.
- The warning that any statement they make can be used against them in a court of law.
- The right to an attorney- and this right includes a court-appointed public defender if they cannot afford to secure their own private legal counsel.
In addition to Miranda warnings, the police must adhere to ethical guidelines like having probable cause when searching a suspect or their property as well as either consent to search or a search warrant that gives them the legal right to search.
For example, if you are charged with the intent to sell drugs, but the search of your vehicle where they found the drugs was searched without probable cause, consent, or a search warrant- then you may have a case against the arresting officer.
Failing To Maintain The Chain Of Custody
When evidence is collected at a crime scene, it’s vital that the police officers at the scene follow the proper chain of custody for evidence. What this means is that there are specific guidelines on how to handle, document, and store evidence from the scene of a crime. If throughout a criminal investigation, a police officer fails to maintain the pre-established chain of custody, they have failed to properly investigate the crime.
Examples of errors in maintaining the chain of custody are:
- Not securing evidence properly, for instance not tagging or bagging it.
- Not storing the evidence properly where no one unauthorized has access.
- Not properly documenting evidence with the crime scene info, date, and location of where evidence was collected.
- Not restricting who handles or sees the evidence.
When there is a failure to maintain the chain of custody, a judge may rule that the evidence cannot be brought before the court. This means that valuable evidence that could secure a conviction would not be allowed to be referenced in court due to the mistake of the officer.
Failing To Properly Collect Evidence
Failing to collect evidence from the scene that may pertain to the investigation can make a huge impact on any investigation.
The type of evidence that can be collected at a crime scene are:
- Other cell tissue from a victim or perpetrator
- Residue from guns
- Fire accelerants
- Drugs or alcohol
If any evidence is missed or if the evidence is not handled with care, it can lead to the arrest of the wrong person or result in no arrest at all for a crime committed against you.
Failing To Secure The Crime Scene
After police are called to the scene of a crime, it is the responsibility of the very first officer on the scene to secure the crime scene. What this means is that as soon as law enforcement arrives at the scene, they must establish a marked barrier to limit anyone other than investigators from interacting with the crime scene.
If anyone tampers with evidence or there is DNA left behind from individuals present at the crime scene due to the first officer on the scene failing to secure the scene, it can lead to life-changing false imprisonments or the failure to collect evidence that might have led to a suspect.
From a fingerprint accidentally getting smudged, a shoe print getting walked over, or someone not connected to the crime at all walking through and having a loose hair fall at the scene, any time there are facts that impact the crime scene that could have otherwise been avoided by securing the scene, it’s based on the failure of police officers.
What To Do If You Are Not Satisfied With A Police Investigation?
If you are not satisfied with the way a case you are connected to either as a victim or suspect- has been handled by the police, there are steps you can take to hold people accountable for the botched investigation. While the outcome of the initial investigation may not change, you may have the right to compensation for damages accrued through police incompetence or misconduct.
If you believe a police officer or a police department failed to properly investigate a crime or that their actions were in violation of your rights, you can:
- Complain directly to the police department.
- File a complaint for police misconduct with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
- Submit a request for the Victim’s Right to Review (VRR), to have them re-evaluate a case that police failed to present to prosecutors.
- Speak with a police conduct defense attorney to discuss your case in a free consultation.
Protect Yourself From Improper Investigations By Law Enforcement Agencies By Contacting The Law Offices of J.M. Kotzker, P.C.
If you believe you are the victim of law enforcement’s failure to properly investigate a crime, or if you have been falsely accused or in any way believe your rights have been violated by a police officer or police department, our Raleigh criminal defense attorneys can help.
Contact the Law Offices of J.M. Kotzker, P.C. for your no-obligation, free consultation to discuss the details of your case. Our legal team believes that justice should be served in all circumstances, including crimes or failures to investigate crimes involving the police.
Call us today at (919) 439-5104 or by filling out our contact form to get started.