leifertlaw December 15, 2012 Criminal Defense
A Fort Lauderdale police officer has pleaded guilty to a charge that he falsified an arrest report, and further that he lied about in a sworn deposition.
Still, he won’t have to serve any jail time, as a Broward judge has sentenced him to three years of probation. He has also lost his job.
Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers, however, believe this points to a greater issue, which is the trustworthiness of police testimony.
It’s not even that all or even most officers lie intentionally. In fact, we would contend that the majority don’t, and do their best to be truthful. However, just like any other witness, they are human and subject to mistakes. The problem for defendants is that law enforcement testimony tends to be given a greater weight in criminal proceedings. As such, it is critical for your defense lawyer to press hard for the truth in these cases. The fact is, you may not even realize there is more to the story until your lawyer conducts an independent investigation of the facts. this is why it’s so important to never simply plead guilty by assuming there is too much evidence against you to do otherwise. At the very least, you need to consult with an experienced lawyer before you agree to a plea deal, because there is often a good chance that the terms of that plea agreement could be improved with the aid of skilled legal representation.
In this case, the 30-year-old officer reportedly claimed to have conducted the traffic stop and subsequent arrest of a man in Fort Lauderdale. But in fact, he did not conduct that arrest – a fellow officer did, and then transferred the arrest to him. Why? Because the officer was a rookie. He was on probation. He needed more arrests under his belt.
It may seem harmless if the individual was going to be arrested anyway. However, it’s a huge problem from the defense standpoint for the simple fact that it deprives the defendant of the right to address one of his accusers – in fact his primary accuser – per the Sixth Amendment.
The rookie officer in this case said he made an honest mistake. He said he never meant to take credit for another officer’s work, but by the time the defendant’s lawyer questioned him about how the traffic stop unfolded, he said he relied on the incorrect information in the report. He said he’d forgotten all about it.
But the defendant in the case couldn’t forget because his rights were on the line.
A jury found him guilty of perjury last month, which is a second-degree felony, according to FL Statute 837.02. It carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison.
But prosecutors in this case never asked for prison time, and the judge didn’t dole it out. In fact, he agreed to withhold adjudication – that is, formal acceptance of the jury’s verdict – assuming that the former officer completes his probation without incident. If he does, he may not have to contend with a permanent criminal record, aside from his adjudication on a misdemeanor charge of falsifying a police report.
If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Fort Lauderdale cop who lied in report, testimony sentenced to probation, Nov. 19, 2012, By Rafael Olmeda, Sun Sentinel
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