Last year, several news outlets ran stories regarding wrongful convictions in Alabama that could have affected almost 1,000 cases. These wrongful convictions, many of which involved leaked documents demonstrating Alabama law enforcement officials planting evidence to secure convictions of suspected offenders, highlight the importance of securing a vigilant criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a criminal offense in Alabama. According to The Week, law enforcement officials working in the Dothan police department have planted drugs and weapons on young black suspects under investigation for committing a variety of criminal offenses. According to last year’s article, the officers involved in planting evidence were allegedly part of a Neoconfederate organization that advocated for African Americans to return to Africa and spread other anti-black propaganda. Several other officers in the department released internal records highlighting this evidence planting to federal authorities. These leaked documents also point to potential mishandling of evidence.
Understanding the Allegations
The released documents may not tell the entire story. Determining whether or not evidence was planted on suspects will require extensive and ongoing investigation into the cases that are potentially involved. According to sources quoted in an article in The Washington Post, many people were not surprised by these allegations. In fact, one defense attorney quoted in the article indicated that he had often encouraged black defendants to take plea bargains even if they had corroborating witnesses that could provide an alibi by which the defendant may have otherwise been exonerated because of the heightened racism present in the department and throughout the county. However, The Washington Post article also points out that the voracity of the allegations of evidence planting and mishandling must still be investigated.
Formal FBI investigations into the charges were requested earlier this year, but may take some time before any concrete results become available. What is obvious is that many defendants in Alabama, as well as other jurisdictions across the country, may not be immune to evidence tampering or the planting of evidence. When a person has been charged with a crime that they did not commit, and especially when they are able to prove that they did not commit the alleged crime, it is important that they work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that their rights are protected and that any potential evidence that may be used against them is completely vetted for accuracy. In the cases that may be reinvestigated as a result of these allegations, proof of planted evidence or mishandled evidence may result in the overturning of a suspect’s conviction.
Sometimes, evidence can mistakenly be mishandled, too. To effectively present evidence in a criminal trial, the evidence must follow an unbroken chain of custody from the time the evidence is collected to the time it is used in trial. Discrepancies in the chain of custody for certain types of evidence may disqualify that evidence from use at trial, and a criminal defense attorney familiar with the way evidence must be handled in a criminal case can help spot discrepancies in the custody of evidence in question.
Facing Criminal Charges
While these particular allegations of wrongdoing by police are centered in a specific area, it is possible that many other suspects in Alabama and across the country may face the same fate. It is extremely important to enlist the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you face criminal charges in Alabama. Doing so can help prevent wrongful convictions, and can help you face a criminal trial with more confidence. Evidence is not always admissible, and even when it is it may not always be accurate. The rules of evidence are complex, and the scientific basis behind the use of evidence can often be confusing. The sooner you enlist the help of a criminal defense attorney, the sooner your attorney can work with you to investigate the circumstances surrounding your charges and any potential evidence that may be used against you.