The American legal system is one of the most revered in the world for the justice that it typically brings to victims and for the fair trials that it is designed to bring to accused defendants. However, the American system of justice only works if every player does its part. That means that the police, lawyers and judge must all comply with the requirements of their oaths and perform their jobs in an honorable and honest manner.
What is Police Planted Evidence?
Police officers are involved in criminal cases when they are still at their investigative stages. Officers are responsible for conducting investigations in accordance with state and federal laws. Yet, some officers do not always complete honest investigations. Instead of gathering and analyzing the evidence presented, they may plant evidence that makes it look like the accused committed the crime.
An officer may plant evidence for a variety of reasons – none of which are legally valid. For example, the officer may be under pressure from his superiors to solve a case quickly. Or an officer may be certain that a suspect committed the crime in question but lack the evidence to support it. Likewise, an officer may believe that the suspect has committed other crimes and deserves to be incarcerated whether or not the suspect committed the particular crime in question.
Remedies for Wrongful Incarceration
If the police planted evidence is not discovered before sentencing, then the defendant may be wrongfully incarcerated on the basis of the police planted evidence.
That does not mean, however, that the defendant is forever barred from justice. The defendant can continue to assert, and present evidence, that the police planted evidence in order to make an arrest and build a case against him. If the defendant is successful in this argument on appeal then the conviction will be overturned. Similarly, if another police officer, judge or lawyer discovers the police planted evidence then they have an obligation to bring that information before the court.
Once it is proven that a defendant has been wrongfully incarcerated because of police planted evidence the defendant will be cleared of the charges against him unless there is other valid evidence, which was not planted by the police, to support the conviction.
The defendant may bring a lawsuit against the police department for damages. The amount of damages will depend on a number of factors including how long the defendant was wrongfully in jail, the amount of income lost while in jail, the degree of pain and suffering caused by the wrongful incarceration and other factors.
If the police officer is still employed as an officer then the police department will likely bring a personnel action against the officer and probably dismiss him. Criminal charges for interfering with an investigation and potential perjury charges may also be brought.
The police are charged with keeping the public safe and helping to put guilty criminals behind bars. When they abuse this power and plant evidence to wrongfully incarcerate a person who did not commit that specific crime then they may be liable for the damages caused by their actions.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.