Police corruption in Illinois is nothing new. In recent years, we’ve seen the corruption scandal surrounding Sgt. Ronald Watts result in many convictions being thrown out of court, and this story is far from the first incident like this.
But what does this mean for you? If you have been arrested by a police force or officer that turns out to be involved in corrupt activity, does that mean your case will automatically be thrown out, allowing you to go free? It is important to understand how these police corruption cases effect your past or current criminal case.
A couple of important cases I handled
I handled some cases for “UR,” a Chicago man who faced several criminal charges.
In the first case, the police entered and searched UR’s home, found marijuana (cannabis) and charged him with possession with intent to distribute cannabis and various other offenses. On the face of it, it was a legal search; the police had a warrant. In fact, his first lawyer convinced him to plead guilty to the felony marijuana possession charges.
However, the man later learned that the police involved with the search and arrest were under a federal investigation for corruption, so I took on the case and got UR’s conviction vacated and the case dismissed. The defendant was allowed to go free without a criminal record and the matter was expunged.
What happens if the police are corrupt?
It is important to note that a general suspicion of police corruption is not enough to vacate a conviction. In fact, even if the officers who arrested and charged you were guilty of corruption in some other cases, this is not enough in itself to vacate a conviction in every case.
The courts can only look at and decide upon one case at a time. Even when prosecutors agree to evaluate past cases involving corrupt officers, they generally evaluate them on a case-by-case basis. They don’t simply set everyone free or vacate all convictions of everyone who was arrested by a corrupt police officer or unit.
To vacate a conviction, there must be some illegal behavior or corruption by the police in your specific case. Even if the police are later found to be corrupt in many other cases surrounding your arrest, unless you can show some kind of violation of your rights or illegal activity in your specific case, you won’t have enough to vacate a conviction.
The good news
However, there is some good news here. If a police unit or single officer is found to be guilty of corrupt activities in many cases surrounding yours, it is highly likely they did something wrong in your case too. Just like in the case of UR, with an experienced, dedicated attorney leading your defense, it is often possible to find procedural problems that could result in an overturned conviction. And even better, after your conviction is vacated you might have an ability to sue the officers or police department in a civil lawsuit and obtain money damages.
If you have been arrested and you suspect police corruption or some violation of your constitutional rights in the investigation, search or arrest, contact criminal defense attorney Darryl A. Goldberg today.