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When justice isn't just: uncovering police misconduct in DUI cases

It's the type of story that makes prosecutors' offices and police departments across the country cringe and judges respond with prompt and harsh rulings.

And, sadly, it's the kind of tale that tends to repeat itself from time to time. That it does is what makes an experienced defense attorney look at a criminal charge against a client in a given case in a critically appraising manner, subjecting every piece of evidence offered to support it to closest scrutiny and demanding proof of every allegation.

The source story referenced in today's blog post occurred outside the state, in North Carolina, but a similar tale could easily enough arise in Colorado or any other state in the country. Indeed, evidence in criminal cases is routinely tossed by irate and otherwise concerned judges across the United States who rule that it is contaminated and thus inadmissible to support charges of criminal guilt.

What drew the ire of a North Carolina judge recently was compelling evidence before her establishing that a long-time police officer had lied multiple times in drunk driving cases, both in false statements he made on court documents and while offering personal testimony at trial.

Understandably, courts tend to take such things seriously. The judge disqualified the officer -- a deputy sheriff -- as a witness, and he was thereafter fired from his job.

And the adverse implications of his fabrications hardly stopped with those outcomes. A county prosecutor reasonably determined that the officer's established deceitful conduct in select DUI cases automatically tainted all other DUI cases in which he had offered evidence.

The result of that: the outright dismissal of more than 100 other drunk driving cases. Additionally, the DA's office threw out scores of traffic tickets written by the officer, finding his credibility to be in question.

Such cases are less rare than some readers might think. And they are certainly well heeded by careful and impassioned defense attorneys, who know that evidence in a given case is not probative unless it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

As the above-cited prosecutor noted following her mass dismissal of tainted DUI cases, "the courts should be a place where justice prevails.

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