The integrity of police investigative work is an important issue in criminal defense. Criminal suspects have rights and police are required to follow specific procedures in criminal investigations to ensure they these rights are protected. Failure to do so can result in privacy infringements, unnecessary property damage and undue harm to suspects and bystanders.
Federal and state laws require police officers to obtain a warrant prior to conducting a search unless certain exceptions apply. In order to obtain a search warrant, officers are required to demonstrate to a judge that they have probable cause to believe they will discover evidence of criminal activity in the place they propose to search. Officers are able to do this by means of an oral or written statement made under oath, which is known as an affidavit.
Obviously, police officers are required to be truthful in providing these statements. Failure to do so constitutes perjury, which can result in penalties for the officer and can vitiate any outstanding criminal charges against the defendant such that the charges are dismissed.
In cases where criminal charges are not dismissed for police failure to follow proper search warrant procedures, or for failure to obtain a search warrant altogether, the defendant may be able to have incriminating evidence excluded from trial, which can significantly weaken prosecution’s case.
Those who face criminal charges should always work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that they thoroughly explore any legal issues connected to police investigative work and take advantage of available protections.
Source: The Tribune, “DA’s Office investigator suspected of falsifying court documents,” Matt Fountain, Nov. 12, 2014.