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The police officer lied about the reason for stopping my car and I was charged with a crime, what can I do?

There have been several articles in the Sarasota Herald Tribune recently regarding police officers who apparantly lied about the reason that they stopped a vehicle. A police officer cannot stop your car for any reason or no reason at all--the cop must have a VALID LEGAL reason to stop you. For instance, "the driver looked suspicious" is not enough for a legal stop. What if a police officer intends to stop someone but has no valid legal reason to make a stop. Well, unfortunately, sometimes they will make one up! Common police traffic stop fabrications include driving without a seat belt, not using lights while driving a bike at night, and driving with too dark window tint (believe it or not, this stop often occurs at night)!

So what can be done it the police make up a reason for a stop and you are later charged with a crime. If the police officer is intent on fabricating the reason for a stop, catching the officer in the fabrication and purjury can be very difficult. It is not a lost cause, though, keep in mind the following issues so you can be prepared if you are ever presented with a lying cop:

  • Witnesses can be very important to your case. Be sure to talk to everyone who may have witnessed the illegal stop and write down a summary of what they saw as well as their name, address, and phone number. The witnesses can later be called during a motion to suppress hearing to testify to what really took place. Often when police are intent on fabrication and obfuscation they will NOT take down the names off all the witnesses present.

  • Depositions can often be taken of the officer—in all felony cases (and some misdemeanor cases—especially if the state is seeking jail time) the judge will allow the defense attorney to question the police officers involved with the case under oath. It is very important that your attorney know ALL the facts of your case prior to going into deposition. Armed with a multitude of facts your attorney can ask very detailed and specific questions which may make it very difficult for the officers to fabricate or weasel out of questions. Immediately after the event, call your criminal defense attorney AND write down a VERY DETAILED summary of events.

  • Was the stop recorded? Obviously the police officer will usually not video record his or her illegal stop (however, we have actually seen it happen a few times!). Although the cop will not likely have video, it is possible that a surrounding business security camera, or even traffic camera, may have recorded the stop. These can be obtained by court order (subpoena) or sometimes just by politely asking the camera owner.

  • Did the officer lie in other areas of the police report or criminal case? If your criminal lawyer can uncover other areas where the officer lied, and these can be shown to the judge (or in some cases the prosecutor) it may be possible to impeach him or her (show that the officer's credibility is at issue). If you can prove that the cop lied in one place, the judge may very well choose not to believe the officer in other areas—especially if you have corroborating evidence.

Don't give up all hope if the police officer has lied in your case--We may be able to help you! Call our attorneys at (941) 444-5128 for a free case evaluation.

Here is an interesting article from the new York Times entitled, "Why police lie under oath."

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