Police Mistakes Common In Michigan Criminal Defense Cases
As Michigan’s premiere criminal defense law firm, we see first-hand the many mistakes made by law enforcement on a daily basis. Police officers may try to cut corners, take the easy way out, forget to protect the rights of those they arrest or forgot what they learned in the police academy and make critical errors. Either way, as criminal defense attorneys in Michigan, we carefully review the facts of your case to find the critical mistakes that were made by law enforcement. Critical mistakes by law enforcement might lead to dismissed charges for our clients.
Police Mistakes Can Be Your Best Criminal Defense
Why? The Supreme Court of the United States and courts in Michigan, have said that if your criminal charge is based on information that police officers learned while doing something that violates the Constitutional rights of a person charged with a crime, then sometimes all or part of the evidence in the case should be suppressed (or thrown out). This concept is often called “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.” If this happens, prosecutors are left with no case against you once that illegally-obtained information is removed.
For example, police officers searched a home without a required search warrant and found some marijuana inside. However, because they didn’t have a constitutionally required search warrant, the search was illegal and the evidence of marijuana could be suppressed in court. It would be difficult for prosecutors to convict a suspect for marijuana possession if they are not able to tell the judge or jury that they found marijuana in the defendant’s home!
The following are some of the most frequent mistakes made by the police:
Not reading a suspect their Miranda rights:
If you are in custody and are being questioned, the police officers must read you your Miranda Rights. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You have the right to remain silent.” This is only part of what the police are required to say to you before they can start questioning you. The entire phrase is something that contains all of the following information: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you.”
If the police have you in custody and question you about anything other than basic identifying information (your name, age, etc.), and they don’t read you these Miranda Rights, anything you say during the course of that questioning may be suppressed in court. If they do read you those Miranda Rights, we highly recommend that you state to the officers that you wish to use your right to remain silent and will not talk until you have a lawyer present. Otherwise, the Michigan police officers will likely do everything in their power—including lying to your face—in order to get you to incriminate yourself. It is legal for the police to lie to you.
Continuing to question you after you state that you want an attorney
As mentioned above, once you are in custody and are being questioned, you have the right to an attorney. As long as you clearly state to them that you want an attorney present and that you don’t want to speak to them without an attorney, they are required to wait a reasonable time to question you until an attorney arrives. If they hear your request for an attorney and do any further questioning before there is a lawyer present with you, anything you tell them at that point might be suppressed in court.
Not doing a proper police investigation of the case
Police investigators are required to play fair in Michigan. They must follow leads, and not just ones that support their version of the events. They must properly collect all the evidence, including evidence that proves your innocence. They cannot seize property of yours that has no connection to their investigation. They cannot try to intimidate witnesses that support or help you. If they do not properly investigate the case, a skilled defense attorney would argue that they cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If a police officer has reasonable suspicion that you committed a crime, you may be stopped for just enough time to determine if the suspicions were correct. This is often called a Terry Stop, and applies to both vehicle and on-foot stops. Competent criminal defense lawyers will argue that (1) the officer didn’t have reasonable suspicion of your criminal activity, or (2) that the stop lasted longer than it should have for the officer to confirm the suspicions. That is because if either of these two things is true, then anything the officer learned during the stop might be suppressed in court. The Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution protects us from unlawful stops by the police.
In order to search your home or body in Michigan, police officers generally need probable cause to believe that you committed a crime or a search warrant based on that probable cause. Automobile searches are often an exception to that warrant requirement. Probable cause is a higher standard of belief than the reasonable suspicion that is required for a Terry Stop. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and there are circumstances where probable cause or a search warrant is not required, but in general the police need one of those two things before they can do a search. Like the scenario mentioned above where the officers search a home without a search warrant and find marijuana, anything the police officers find during an illegal search might be suppressed in court.
Improper administration of sobriety tests
There are a few ways officers test whether or not you are driving drunk in Michigan. The first is a series of field sobriety tests, such as a gaze test or a balance test. Drivers of passenger cars are not required to take field sobriety tests. However, if you take the tests and the officer doesn’t do them exactly right, there is a margin for error. In that case, your defense lawyer will argue that without the tests being performed properly, there is not enough proof that you were drunk driving.
Another way an officer will attempt to prove that you are driving under the influence of alcohol is to do a breath test at roadside, often called a Preliminary Breath Test or a PBT. The officer must have the equipment calibrated right and be fully trained on its use or else your lawyer could argue that the results of the test ought to be suppressed. Drivers of passenger cars do not commit a crime by refusing to take a PBT in Michigan.
Your Criminal Defense Lawyers
This list is just a small sampling of what can go wrong during a criminal investigation. In order to make sure all of the evidence against you is actually proper, you need to hire an experienced, aggressive and trusted criminal lawyer. At The Kronzek Firm we have been defending clients all over Michigan for many years. We will go through your case with a fine-tooth comb to see if the police made any critical mistakes. If they did, we will argue that anything that they found out after making the mistake should be suppressed in court. We have been practicing law for over 80 combined years. Let us put that to work for you! We offer a free initial consultation to talk about your case.
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