Use the data proactively. Evidence of police misconduct can be used before you ever get into the courtroom. It can be included in subpoenas, motions to suppress, and even dismissals in the interest of justice. You can also use these records to advocate for low or no bail, guide your investigation, expose and reduce “testilying,” reduce charges and pleas, and improve overall outcomes.
Make note of false arrests. Evidence of false arrests can be impactful in a broad variety of criminal defense and civil rights cases, since they implicate a series of prior bad acts, including committing perjury on paper and lying to a supervisor and district attorney.
Connect the data to your theory of the case. Just knowing an officer has committed prior misconduct does not make the evidence immediately admissible. If the evidence of misconduct is materially relevant to the facts of the case, the court is less likely to end a line of questioning related to an officer’s past misconduct. Does the past misconduct call the officer’s credibility into question? Does the past misconduct call into question the prosecutor’s version of the story? Identify your framing of the past misconduct as you are putting together your overall case strategy.
Preserve the appeal. Sometimes a judge is going to exclude your evidence or stop your line of cross examination. If this happens, make sure to preserve your issues for appeal. You should always cite to the Confrontation Clause, Davis v. Alaska, and Pennsylvania v. Ritchie in order to shift the burden to the government to prove that the officer’s error was harmless.
Sarah graduated from Simon's Rock College in 2005 with a BA in Linguistics, then worked in events production for several years before obtaining a JD from New York Law School in 2012. Before joining Lawline, they worked in litigation management. They love working as a program attorney as it combines their legal knowledge and production background. They have two kids, two cats, and they love public transit and rainy days.