Posts Tagged ‘crime’

Cops in Jail

February 5, 2010

Kudos to the Jacksonville police officer who had the courage to turn in two fellow officers recently for committing a crime on the job.  Apparently the officers wanted to look for drugs in a house located in a high-crime area, but they didn’t have a search warrant.  So instead of developing the probable cause they would have needed to get a warrant, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  They removed a room air conditioner and went into the house, then made up a story about a lady driving by who reported a burglary so it would look like they were justified in going into the house.

They didn’t find any drugs in the house.  Now they’re in jail.

Sadly, too many officers take shortcuts.  Over the course of the last 18+ years as a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen it too many times.  I’ve had clients tell me about it again and again.

I guess these officers feel like the ends justify the means, but they never do.  Their actions taint all of the hard-working, dedicated officers who play by the rules while protecting the public.

The criminal justice system is designed to ferret out the truth, and most of the time it works.  Usually, when it fails, it’s because a cop or a prosecutor decides that winning is more important than justice.  It never is.

I’m sure the officers charged in this case will feel entitled to a fair trial, which they are.  I’m sure they’ll want the evidence used against them to be obtained legally, which it should be.  That’s the thing about the Constitution—it covers all of us, in all cases.

You can read more about this story at http://bit.ly/dChmmy.

Sentencing Guidelines, Part II

January 18, 2010

I came across another example of the way our judges are not allowed to use their own judgment anymore.  These are the kinds of things that don’t make the newspapers.  “Tough on crime” rolls off the tongue really easily, and it makes us all feel good, but it doesn’t take into account all the cases that get swept under the rug of injustice in our furor to rid our streets of violent crime.

This was a Jacksonville case.  The charge was possession of cocaine.  The defendant had prior felony convictions, and the sentencing guidelines called for a minimum sentence of 14 months in prison.  But the trial judge felt that the defendant was amenable to drug treatment, so he sentenced the man to six months in the county jail, to be served in the residential drug program (which is a well-respected treatment program).  The state appealed, arguing that the judge did not have a valid reason for sentencing the man to a sentence lower than the sentencing guidelines called for.  The First District Court of Appeal agreed, ruling that the judge did not have a valid reason for a “downward departure” sentence, and sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing within the guidelines.

I’m not faulting the First District Court of Appeal.  The court’s legal reasoning was correct.  And I’m not saying that the trial judge’s sentence was the one I would have imposed.  I don’t know anything about the particular facts of the case.  I might have felt that a prison sentence was more appropriate.  The point is that trial judges are supposed to use their experience, reasoning, and judgment in making these kinds of decisions, and in many cases their hands are tied.  The law does not always permit them to impose the sentences they feel are appropriate and justified under the particular circumstances of the case.

If you were in front of a judge, no matter whether it was for a traffic ticket, a DUI, or any other crime, wouldn’t you want the judge to make a sentencing decision based on all the facts? Wouldn’t you want the judge to consider your particular circumstances?  I know I would.