What Attorneys do to Cops (in court)

WHAT ATTORNEYS DO (TO COPS) IN COURT Why are we trying to learn to get admissions and/or confessions from suspects, anyway? We desire such evidence to present at trial, or to build such an overwhelming case that the case doesn’t even go to trial in the first place. If that is indeed the goal, let’s take a quick look at what we may encounter in a typical criminal trial. In my years as a law enforcement officer, I’ve had the occasion to watch many attorneys conduct themselves in civil and criminal courts. In fact, the average police officer spends much more time in front of a judge and/or jury than most attorneys. Many attorneys have told me that trials represent a failure on their part to successfully plea-bargain a case, so they don’t actually get to trial often. In my conversations with many top-notch criminal defense attorneys, certain things are always emphasized in the representation of any criminal client. In the pre-trial “game plan”, the attorneys sketch out a plan of attack, basically as follows: • Attack the reason for the contact – if attorneys can establish that there were no grounds or authority for the initial contact, this will result in the exclusion of evidence. o How do they commonly establish the lack of grounds or authority? One way is to dispute the officer’s testimony concerning his/her initial observations which led to the contact, usually by implying that the officer is lying or embellishing. An absolute counter to this is to obtain an admission from the suspect of the observed behavior which prompted the contact. • Attack the Officer’s Conduct – coercion, force, fear, intimidation (either actual or implied) will always be ready avenues for defense exploration. o It’s important to note that criminal defense attorneys may attack not only the officer’s conduct during a particular contact, but they may use the officer’s past history in an attempt to establish a pattern of past misconduct. o We have to think back no further than the well-publicized O.J. Simpson trial in which Mr. Simpson’s attorneys discredited a police investigator by bringing up racially disparaging comments made by the investigator years prior to the Simpson prosecution. • Attack the decision to initiate action – if not successful in attacking the officer’s reasons for the initial contact or the officer’s conduct, most defense attorneys will move to attack the officer’s decision to take action against the defendant. o Lack of reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause will be bandied about at this stage of the defense. • Evidence issues – if unsuccessful in the above arenas, most attorneys will move to the evidence itself and the chain-of-custody issues surrounding that evidence. o If the evidence gets excluded, most trials cannot be prosecuted. If all else fails, now’s the time for the classic S.O.D.D.I. defense: “Some other dude did it.”
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