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When Cops Lie in Court, Do Trial Judges and Appellate Courts Let Them Get Away with It?

by William L. Pfeifer, Jr. on January 19, 2011

in About.com, Appeals, Crime, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure

When a cop lies in court, do trial judges and appellate courts let them get away with it? It appears that in many cases, the answer is yes. Unless it is absolutely proven that the cop was lying, trial judges usually put their rubber stamp on what the cop says. When the case goes up on appeal, the appellate courts generally go along with whatever the trial court decided was truthful, leaving people with little recourse in combatting lies told by a police officer in a suppression hearing.

This issue was recently addressed by a Florida appellate court in the case of Ruiz v. State, where the appeals court made it very clear that they believed the cops had lied over whether a defendant had given consent to a search of his home. They even stated that 25 years ago they would have suppressed the search, and directly said that judges should not be a “rubber stamp” for whatever law enforcement says is the truth. However, under the current legal precedent, they had to uphold the ruling of the trial court as the finder of fact on a suppression issue. To learn more about the Ruiz case, read Are Judges Helping Cops Commit Perjury about Consensual Searches.

While this ruling was issued in Florida, the legal standard in Alabama is very similar to the one applied in the Ruiz case. It is extremely difficult to get an appellate court to overrule a trial court’s opinion about the facts and truthfulness of a cop’s testimony in a suppression hearing. And while I ┬ábelieve that most cops are truthful most of the time, I’ve been around long enough to know that not all cops are honest all of the time. I’ve seen too many police officers get arrested themselves for planting evidence and other ethics violations to believe that all of them are always telling the truth, and I’m glad to know there are some police officers who won’t hesitate to arrest one of their own when they break the law.

I’ve written about this issue in greater detail in an article on the About.com Law Practice Management site called Are Judges Helping Cops Commit Perjury about Consensual Searches, and I encourage you to read that article to learn more about this important issue. This is one of the most blunt appellate court decisions I’ve seen addressing the importance of the independence of the judiciary, and anyone involved with a hearing on the suppression of evidence should have a copy of this case nearby. It is unfortunate that the appellate court decided that they were powerless to do anything to correct what they clearly believed was a wrong committed by law enforcement and the trial court, as they could have accomplished a lot of good by making judges and police officers follow the law. Read Are Judges Helping Cops Commit Perjury about Consensual Searches, and share your thoughts in the comments section on that website or below.

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