Florida’s police and sheriff’s departments are entrusted to enforce the law and investigate suspects fairly. They have considerable powers because they swear to use those powers only to arrest those they reasonably believe committed crimes, not innocent people.
Unfortunately, too many police officers abuse their powers and the public trust. They falsify evidence and lie on the stand at trial in an effort to convict a defendant despite a lack of legitimate evidence against them. Such officers and deputies pervert the criminal justice system and should not be trusted to testify in court. This is why state attorneys in Florida are required to keep so-called “Brady lists” of law enforcement agents who have damaged their credibility and provide that list to defense attorneys. The name comes from a 1963 Supreme Court case called Brady v. Maryland. Some of the 90 officers on the list in Florida are there for deceptive police work. Others are included because they were convicted of crimes like domestic violence and DUI.
Police union-backed law weakens Florida’s Brady list
However, a new law changes the Brady list requirement to only ask state attorneys to keep a list “at [their] discretion” or provide the information to defense lawyers some other way. The new law also gives officers the right to petition the court to get themselves removed from a Brady list or ask the state attorney to reconsider putting them on the list in the first place. The law was the result of lobbying from the Fraternal Order of Police.
Needed more than ever
Police misconduct is not often a factor in criminal law matters. But doctored, tainted or planted evidence does happen. So does an officer perjuring themself on the stand or in a deposition to try to get the defendant unjustly convicted. Especially with the changes in the law, only the support and efforts of an experienced defense attorney can help expose an officer’s poor credibility and fight to avoid injustice.