Patrick T. McNallyAttorney at Law

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Police errors might violate procedural due process

The efforts of the brave men and women who serve in law enforcement deserve to be commended. They are often called upon for service that exceeds the normal call of duty. At the same time, they are only human, and may make mistakes.

As a law firm that helps clients with post-conviction relief and appeals, we understand that it can be intimidating to suggest that an officer of the law failed to comply with procedural requirements. That fear may be even greater if the mistake appeared to be intentional.

Yet in our experience, we have seen examples where unintentional police mistakes or actual misconduct by officials has been committed. Unfortunately, mistakes can translate into a violation of due process, often at great cost to a client’s criminal case. In fact, procedural errors such as the admission of tainted evidence or prejudicial jury instructions may even have been the tipping point in the prosecutor’s burden of proof.

Our own insights are confirmed by a recent study into police misconduct by the National Institute of Justice, which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. Data collected between 2005 and 2011 indicates the annual average of arrests of police officers to be around 1,110. That number is much lower than the general civilian population’s crime rate. However, it still translates into about 3 arrests of police officers per day. Notably, over 40 percent of those criminal actions were committed while the officers were on duty.

To protect our clients’ rights, we begin with an in-depth research of applicable case law to understand what the requirements of procedural due process were in a particular case. From there, we examine whether the mistake had an impact on the trial. To learn more about the areas that may qualify for a potential appeal, check out the appellate law section of our law firm’s website.

Source: Washington Post, “Study finds police officers arrested 1,100 times per year, or 3 per day, nationwide,” Tom Jackman, June 22, 2016

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