If you have been charged with a criminal offense, you might expect law enforcement to never make mistakes during its investigation. In reality, Oklahoma law enforcement can make small to serious errors while investigating a crime. This article reviews some of the most common police investigation errors, which can later serve as the basis for a strong defense.
Performing an Unauthorized Arrest, Search, or Stop
Before law enforcement can arrest, stop or search someone, they must have consent to search you, probable cause to search or arrest you, reasonable suspicion to stop you, or a warrant to arrest or search you. This means that law enforcement cannot stop or search a person only because the individual looks suspicious or is of a specific color or race. This also means that if law enforcement does not have an arrest warrant, a person cannot be arrested unless law enforcement has reasonable cause to believe the individual has committed a crime. If a court determines that an arrest or search was unlawful, all charges must be dismissed.
Not Reading a Suspect’s Miranda Rights
Miranda rights address a person’s right against self-incrimination as well as the right to have the assistance of an attorney when being interrogated by law enforcement. A person’s Miranda rights must be read to them before being questioned by law enforcement or an individual’s statements will be viewed as inadmissible as evidence in a court of law. Miranda rights include the right to remain silent, that anything a person says can be used against them in court, a right to an attorney who will be present during questioning, and that if a person cannot afford a lawyer to have an attorney appointed by the court. Law enforcement, however, often places individuals in custody without immediately providing them with these Miranda warnings. Law enforcement is similarly prohibited from obtaining statements against a person’s interest through coercion.
Not Interviewing or Contacting Witnesses
Law enforcement either sometimes fails to find or interview witnesses whose statements can exonerate a person charged with a crime. If law enforcement fails to obtain contact information for essential witnesses, it is likely that if the case proceeds to trial and the witness cannot be located, charges pending against a person must be dropped.
Not Following Chain of Custody Procedures
Whenever a critical piece of evidence is located, law enforcement must follow a “chain of evidence” protocol in handling it. Chain of evidence refers to what must be proved in court to establish what happened to the evidence between when it was found to when it was introduced as evidence at trial. Law enforcement, however, often fails to properly record how evidence is handled. If the chain of custody is “broken” or there are parts of the evidence handling process that are not adequately documented, a judge must exclude the evidence, which might result in a person’s case being dismissed.
Speak with an Experienced Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorney
If law enforcement has made these or any other mistakes, it can help to retain the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Contact attorney Tracy Tiernan today to schedule a free case evaluation.