Before the police arrest you, they should conduct a criminal investigation to establish whether you committed a crime and gather evidence to convict you. But even seasoned officers can make errors when investigating a crime.
If you face charges of a felony or misdemeanor, you should know the common mistakes that may be made during the criminal investigation that resulted in your arrest. Continue reading to learn the seven common mistakes made by police in a criminal investigation.
1. Breaking the Chain of Custody
The police should maintain the correct chain of custody of any proof from when it’s obtained until it’s brought to court as evidence against the accused. When police make mistakes in the chain of custody, they may lose the integrity of the evidence.
Common chain of custody mistakes include:
- Failing to properly secure or preserve the evidence
- Failing to document the source of evidence
- Failing to prevent manipulation of the evidence
- Failing to control the people who can handle the evidence
If the police break the chain of custody, the judge may declare that the court can’t use the proof against the accused in their criminal case. The court may even dismiss the charges if the evidence with a broken chain of custody is critical to the prosecutor’s case.
2. Using Excessive Force
The law allows the police to apply reasonable force when stopping and arresting a person. But as we frequently see in the headlines, they often apply excessive force. In many instances this leaves the suspect maimed or dead.
Even though an allegation of excessive force might not lead to the dropping of the charges, it might result in a favorable plea bargain with the prosecutor. Also, the individual charged may file a civil lawsuit for constitutional rights violations.
3. Failing to Protect the Crime Scene
The crime scene often has vital evidence that can help determine who committed the offense. The police should adequately secure the crime scene so that no outside materials or people tamper with or interfere with the evidence. Here are some of the issues that arise when the police fail to secure the scene:
- Neighbors or passerby may introduce new fingerprints, footprints, hair, and other evidence at the site.
- The police may carelessly erase or smudge vital evidence if improperly trained.
- If the perpetrator is nearby, they could remove evidence without suspicion, especially if enough bystanders are milling about the crime scene.
Any of these events may make it impossible to determine who committed the crime and will weaken the prosecution’s case against the accused.
4. Asking Questions without a Lawyer Present
The sixth amendment to the United States Constitution gives the right to a lawyer for your defense. Despite this right, police often demand people answer their questions, even if they have refused to respond until an attorney arrives. When this occurs, the court may suppress anything you say without the presence of your attorney.
5. Conducting an Illegal Search
Law enforcement officers should have a search warrant for your home or probable cause to search your person. When the police search your home without a probable cause or warrant, the court may not use any weapons, illegal drugs, paraphernalia, etc., found in your home.
6. Forgetting to Read Your Miranda Rights
Police officers rarely forget to read Miranda Rights, but they may choose not to on purpose. When they arrest you and ask questions without reading your Miranda Rights, the court can’t use whatever you say against you. This doesn’t mean you’ve won the case, but it’s in your favor.
7. Using Undercover or Off-Duty Police
Although being undercover as an officer is lawful, the only thing that needs to be “undercover” is the car. Police can be in an undercover car while searching for drunk or intoxicated drivers on the road, but they must be wearing a uniform. A city or state police officer ideally should not arrest you if not in uniform or when off-duty.
Suppose an officer stops you without reason, conducts an illegal search, uses excessive force on you, or fails to read your Miranda rights before interrogation. In that case, you should consult with a lawyer. In most cases, these errors can be the difference between jail and having your case dismissed. Contact our law firm, Daniels, Long & Pinsel, to schedule your free consultation.