COA Panel Splits on Admissibility of Police Officers’ False Statements in Obstruction of Justice Case
Police officers are charged with the duty of upholding the law; however, there are times when officers are accused of breaking it. The Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act is in place to protect officers from having their involuntary statements used against them in a criminal proceeding arising out of an internal investigation. This law applies even when the police officer has been charged with obstruction of justice based on the finding that the statements were false. If you are a police officer in Berrien County and you have been charged with a crime, you need to contact a reputable and experienced criminal attorney as soon as possible.
Admissibility of Police Officer’s False Statements
In a recent case, Officer Hughes of the Detroit police force was charged with common-law felony misconduct in office as well as misdemeanor assault and battery for assaulting a man while two other officers stood by. After the victim filed a complaint, all three of the officers were compelled to give statements concerning the incident under threat of discharge. The statements provided by the officers were later shown to be false and Hughes, along with the other two officers, was also charged with obstruction of justice. The officers claimed that their statements were protected under the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act and the obstruction of justice charges were dismissed.
The Court of Appeals reinstated the obstruction of justice charges based on the assertion that the false statements fall outside the purview of the protection. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, later overturned this decision holding that statements made by an officer during a compulsory internal investigation are protected by the Act because the Legislature intended that any information that is gathered during this type of investigation cannot be used against the officers in subsequent criminal proceedings; the Act does not distinguish between statements that are true and statements that are false. Thus, the Supreme Court held that all information, whether true or false, that is garnered from a compulsory internal police investigation cannot be used against the officers in a subsequent criminal proceeding by the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act.
When Criminal Charges Arise From a Police Internal Investigation
Complaints made concerning police misconduct can lead to an internal police investigation in which the officers involved are compelled to give statements under threat of termination. When this happens, the officers cannot be prosecuted for any compelled statements that are made during the course of the investigation whether or not the statements are true in the state of Michigan. However, these statements can still lead to other repercussions such as suspension and termination. Furthermore, a probe by the prosecutor’s office can lead to criminal charges being filed against the officer. Thus any officer who is the subject of an internal investigation should seek the services of a skilled criminal attorney as soon as possible.
If you are a police officer and are facing an internal investigation regarding wrongful activity while on duty you need a highly experienced and reputable criminal attorney in Berrien County such Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC by your side for a successful outcome.