In this State of Arrest Podcast:
A client comes into your criminal defense firm after having been arrested for low-level offense. You see that they have been roughed up by the marks on their face to which they explain that they were physically assaulted during the course of their arrest. Why is it that you can pretty much guarantee that felony battery on a law enforcement officer charges have been or will be added as account to their charges.
Added Charge of Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer
Today were going to examine how a suspects mouthing off to a police officer could turn a simple misdemeanor arrest into the charging and prosecution of serious felony allegations by police officers. Ask any criminal defense attorney in South Florida and they will tell you that suspicions run high when faced with a client who bears the marks consistent with being restrained by law enforcement officers. The fact is that an inordinate amount of accusations have been made over the years by suspects claiming to have been unjustifiably beaten up by arresting officers following an admitted verbal attack on officers. Keep in mind that the discrepancy comes from allegations as to verbal verses physical attacks on the part of the suspect.
Under Florida law, a police officer may exercise reasonable force to gain control of a suspect only when threatened with violence. Physically attacking a suspect who has insulted or verbally accosted said officer is per se presumed to have committed misconduct. This unjustifiable use of force may result in the termination and prosecution of the violating police officer.
Just as there are good cops, we all know that there are bad ones to. Over the years we have seen an increased number of police brutality cases, many of which have been captured on film. An overwhelming amount of the aforementioned cases involve officers who were not physically provoked but rather responded to insubordination on the part of the individual being investigated. From a criminal defense standpoint, serious concerns arise from cases that provide no actual evidence of the events that took place during an investigation and arrest of an individual who has suffered some form of visual injury resulting during the course of their arrest.
Everyone has a breaking point when it comes to being assaulted verbally and where a police officer crosses the line by using force against an unruly suspect, the only way to avoid termination and/or criminal prosecution is to allege an act of violence perpetrated by the suspect during the course of arrest. There is simply no other way that the police officer can bring a suspect in for booking who bears clear injuries to the face and body. In other words, unless a police officer is willing to admit misconduct and accept the ramifications for committing police misconduct, the only viable option is to allege that the suspect instigated a violent act toward the arresting police officer.
Criminal defense attorneys in South Florida have historically grappled with how to best to approach the defending of clients who appear to have been overcharged as a result of what started out as verbal insubordination during an investigation involving a low-level misdemeanor crime. In a trial setting, a defending lawyer cannot expect to be able to outwardly argue that a police officer lied about physically battering a suspect in order to cover up an otherwise unjustifiable case of police brutality.
Limitations on just how fine of a line attorney may walk is often determined in the midst of trial where both prosecutor and presiding judge anticipates such an age old argument. One that where outwardly stated to the full degree can be viewed as improper and prohibited.
The most appropriate way to deal with issues pertaining to police brutality and misconduct under the circumstances is yet unclear. Even the most tactical approach on the trial level would require an intimate knowledge of how to implement that strategy based on the tolerances of each individual judge. Even under these circumstances issues related to the exposure faced by a criminal defendant will still often result in a desire by certain suspects to plead to the felony charges out of fear of exposure to incarceration sentences should they be found guilty.
The educating of individuals as a whole with regard to understanding the many dangers associated with the effectuation of an arrest in any Florida jurisdiction also seems to be an unlikely solution.
If either you or loved one has been the victim of police brutality and want to have your story heard, contact me, criminal defense attorney William R. Moore and schedule an appointment to explain in person at my office in Fort Lauderdale Florida. You may also contact me directly by calling 954-523-5333.