In our last post, we began speaking about the issue of police misconduct and the importance of criminal defendants scrutinizing police investigations in building a strong criminal defense case. The importance of this scrutiny lies not only in catching any evidentiary issues before a case goes to trial, but also in addressing any civil rights violations in their case.
As we noted, civil rights violations only come into play in cases where police have willfully violated a suspect’s constitutional rights. This can happen where police officers willfully violate search and seizure protections, or in cases of excessive use of force, malicious prosecution, or wrongful imprisonment. One of the benefits of working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is that he or she is able to help identify case factors which raise potential civil rights issues like these.
In the course of investigating a criminal case, if any potential civil rights issues arise, a defense attorney needs to determine what action, if any, should be taken, and when. It isn’t necessarily a good idea to initiate a complaint, a civil suit or a separate criminal case while the defendant’s criminal case is pending, since it can negatively impact how prosecutors negotiate in the defendant’s case.
Criminal defendants who have been mistreated or who feel they have had their rights violated by police officers in the course of criminal investigation should be sure to work with experienced attorney not only in building a strong defense case, but in identifying these issues and determining one’s legal options. Doing so ensures that appropriate action is taken to achieve a greater measure of justice in their case.