I know that will be hard for most people to believe, but it’s the truth. Most people want to believe that the police are out there to protect us, which is true in most instances, but there is, however, another side to the badge. There are some officers who do not have your best interests at heart. These are the officers who “push the limits” and exaggerate or take advantage of their position of power. Unfortunately, you won’t see this side of the badge until you are under investigation, have been arrested, and are now facing charges.
Always "Double-Check" the Police Report!
Fortunately, my experience as a law enforcement officer has taught me ways to “double check” the allegations in a police report. There are things our firm will request from the State that will either confirm the allegations in the report or contradict them. For Instance, each time an officer gets on the radio to call in to headquarters, and each and every time they click the key on the mic, the date and time of the communication, as well as the ID of the officer is recorded. Typically, it is also followed by a description of the reason the officer got on the radio. This is just one example of some documented evidence that can be used to determine if what was actually happening out there on the street is what was ultimately documented in the police report.
Now You See It, Now You Don't
To illustrate these situations to you, let me provide two examples of actual cases our firm has handled in the past. Fortunately (and I say fortunately because it happened very early on in my defense career, thus teaching a valuable lesson), when I first became a defense attorney, one of the first cases I handled was a client who was in Repeat Offender Court (ROC) on a trafficking case. His specific charges were trafficking more than 200 grams of cocaine. This charge carries a 7-year minimum mandatory sentence up to 30 years, and because he was Habitual Offender, his exposure was a life sentence.
The arrest report alleged that the Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit served a search warrant on a house, and ,upon entering the house, the narcotics detectives observed my client sitting on the couch in the family room watching TV with a large quantity of cocaine individually packaged for sale sitting on the couch immediately to his left (not good). We participated in discovery and received pictures of a three-cushion couch with the first cushion having nothing on it (the location of where my client was sitting) and the next two cushions having several baggies of cocaine on them. At this point, things were not looking good for the client.
I scheduled depositions in the case. During the depositions, I learned the Sheriff’s Office had been often accused of tearing up houses when executing search warrants. To protect themselves, they started taking pictures before and after the search so they could document the condition of the home. Well, one of the detectives brought the narcotics file with them and I asked them to go through the title of each and every item in the file. Upon going through them, he came across a disc of digital photographs of the scene. I asked him to review the discs. I will never forget how defensive he became when I requested a computer to review the photographs and to save copies to my file. I then asked the court reporter if we could use her computer to view the contents of the disc.
When we put it in the photos, which were in a chronological order, there were pictures of the couch with no cocaine on it followed by pictures of the couch with dope on the cushions next to the area where my client had been sitting. The #truth: the officer found the narcotics in the ceiling and put it on the couch, taking pictures of it there and then wrote the report. What’s the significance of this? If the drugs were in the ceiling, the State could not prove my client had any knowledge whatsoever about the narcotics and would not be able to prove the case. Saying the cocaine was sitting right next to my client would have allowed them to infer my client was well aware of the cocaine’s presence and he was therefore in possession of it. The result - the trafficking charges were dropped and the client was given time served for simple possession of cocaine because there was one baggie found in his front pocket.
Can You See Me Now?
The second example involves another trafficking case. Our client was pulled over in traffic stop for not wearing a seatbelt. The officer approached the driver’s side of the car and detected the odor of marijuana. The officer then searched the car and found a trafficking amount of narcotics. Upon discussing the case with our client, he was adamant that he was wearing a seatbelt and the stop of his vehicle was a product of racial profiling. We requested the police reports, and in addition to the standard reports, we also requested the CAD report, which is the documentation of the radio transmissions made by the officer conducting the traffic stop. What do you know, our client was right! When the officer called in the traffic stop, he called it in saying he was stopping a “silver impala, unknown occupants – tint.” Well, if the officer was unable to see how many people were in the car because the tint was too dark, how could he know our client was not wearing a seatbelt?
It is important to know the police report is a sworn affidavit, a statement made under oath; the same as the oath witnesses are required to take prior to giving a deposition or testifying in a trial. The CAD report is a real-time recording of the officer’s observations, and, arguably, a far more accurate picture of what was really going on or observed at the time of arrest. Unlike the allegations written in a report after an arrest and justification for that decision has to be provided.
Those who believe law enforcement only exists to protect them will have difficulty accepting the #truth about these examples, until they are the ones caught in the cross hairs of an overzealous police officer. Then, and only then, will they appreciate the work of a criminal defense attorney who will actually litigate a case.
The Reinhold Law Firm is located in downtown Jacksonville, FL. We concentrate exclusively on criminal law cases, such as drug offenses, domestic violence and DUIs. If you have questions regarding your rights, please contact our office at 904-354-2444 for a free case evaluation.