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Impeachment of Law Enforcement Officers (Part II)

A previous post looked at the concept of witness impeachment generally and how a witness’s credibility can be attacked. When the witness is a law enforcement officer (as is often the case in a criminal proceeding), the concept of witness impeachment becomes slightly different. This is because officers generally do not change their testimony from one hearing to the next as they have their notes and reports to review before each hearing. Not only this, but it is rare (if not impossible) to find a police officer with a felony conviction or conviction for a crime of dishonesty in his or her background. How, then, are law enforcement officers impeached?

Impeaching Officers By Confronting Them with Facts

First, an officer’s credibility can be challenged by highlighting testimony that exaggerates or misstates objective facts. Sometimes an officer’s testimony makes a criminal investigation more colorful than it actually is. An officer can describe a DUI suspect as “staggering and having difficulty maintaining his balance,” when all the suspect actually did was briefly lose his footing due to tripping on an obstruction in the road. An officer can describe another suspect as acting “belligerent and uncooperative” simply because the person asked the officer in a loud voice why he was being arrested. Officers who overstate or exaggerate the facts can ruin their credibility with the judge or jury.

Impeaching Officers with Prior Intentional Dishonest Acts

Even if an officer has not been “convicted” of a crime involving an act of dishonesty or false statement, an officer who has previously engaged in dishonest conduct can nonetheless be impeached. This is due to the trust that the public places in law enforcement officers – they are (rightfully so) held to a higher standard of conduct than the average citizen. So an officer who was officially reprimanded by his or her agency for filing a false report or other dishonest conduct can have these facts brought to light and have his or her truthfulness challenged based on this information.

For example, suppose that an officer writes in a report that methamphetamine was found in a certain location in a home, implicating one particular person with whom the officer has had prior dealings. The person complains, and an internal investigation reveals that the methamphetamine was actually discovered in a completely different part of the home and the officer deliberately falsified his report. Even though this act may not have resulted in a conviction, it is still a relevant fact that can be brought out for the judge or jury to consider when evaluating the officer’s credibility.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Helps You

Jeffrey S. Weiner, Miami criminal defense attorney, can help your case by uncovering evidence that can help impeach the testimony of witnesses and law enforcement officers. The sooner you retain his services, the more effective he can be at locating this information and (potentially) resolving your case favorably before trial. Call his office today at (305) 670-9919 or contact his office online for assistance with your Florida criminal charges.

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