In our last post, we began speaking about the issue of illegal stops in light of an article discussing what appears to have been shoddy police work, at least from the testimony of the man who was arrested. It would be interesting to see how the officer in the case would react to the accusation that he acted improperly in conducting the investigation. As readers know, police officers don’t always have the same perception of events as those they arrest or as bystanders.
The important point to understand from this case and others like it is that officers must always have a reason to conduct stops, searches and seizures. If an officer is detaining or arresting an individual, they should be able to give an appropriate answer as to why they are doing so. If the officer is conducting a stop-and-frisk, the officer must be able to articulate a reasonable suspicion that the individual was involved in criminal activity. If the officer is conducting a search or making an arrest, that officer should be able to communicate probable cause for doing so.
For those who end up facing criminal charges on the basis of poor police work, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to have these aspects of the case fully addressed. In some cases, it may be possible to have evidence which was obtained as a result of an illegal search excluded from trial.
This remedy, known as the exclusionary rule, can significantly change the strength of a criminal case, particularly when there is no other evidence to fill the gap left by the exclusion. In our next post, we’ll look a bit more at the exclusionary rule and some of its limitations.