Right now, it's a good time to be a criminal defendant in Baltimore -- and a very bad time to be a police officer. The situation going on in the city illustrates how easy it is for an entire city's police force to lose credibility based on the actions of a few rogue officers -- and why defense attorneys need to stay alert to claims from a client that swears he or she is innocent.
This is what you should know:
Officers Caught Planting Drugs By Misunderstood Technology
Three officers were caught by their own body cameras planting drugs on a criminal suspect when their own search turned up empty. The officers apparently didn't realize that the body cameras, even when turned off, recorded in 30-second loops, just in case they needed to catch something important before the officer hit the button.
In the video in question, one officer can be seen planting drugs in a suspect's yard, walking away, turning his body camera on (without realizing that it had already recorded the last 30 seconds), then walking back and "finding" the planted drugs while two other officers watched.
A total of 68 cases that relied entirely on the testimony of those officers had to be dropped. Another 41 cases still pending are being reviewed to see if they have any additional evidence or if, they too, will have to be dropped. Almost 100 closed cases are being reviewed to see if they should be reopened.
In an unrelated case, an officer who "reenacted" finding a cache of drugs for the camera self-reported what he had done and 43 more criminal cases were dropped -- although prosecutors indicate that officer was not under any suspicion of wrongdoing.
Lessons Learned About The Importance Of Digital Evidence And Credibility
A situation like what has happened in Baltimore can damage the credibility of the police deeply -- and many cases rely solely on police testimony in order to gain a conviction. In other cases, there's a combination of digital technology and police testimony that is slated to be used against someone in a criminal trial.
This makes it very important to communicate certain things to your criminal defense attorney:
- Be honest about whether or not the illegal drugs were yours. Your attorney can't turn you in and won't defend you any less aggressively. If you really are innocent, however, make sure your attorney understands.
- Tell your attorney exactly what happened when you were arrested. Try to recall what was said, how the drugs were "found" and who "found" the drugs.
- If you didn't give permission for any kind of search, make sure that your attorney also understands that you refused consent -- he or she can often challenge the probable cause, or reasonable belief that you were doing something illegal, that gave the officer's the right to look for illegal substances in the first place.
Defending a drug case isn't hopeless -- especially when you aren't willing to let corruption stop you. If you're wrongfully accused, talk to a criminal defense attorney today.