Police misconduct, such as hiding or falsifying evidence, witness tampering, and violent interrogation, is responsible for the majority of wrongful convictions.
Wrongful Convictions Linked to Police Misconduct
The National Registry of Exonerations focuses on police misconduct and wrongful convictions in the United States. Founded in 2012, the Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration since 1989 and maintains a database of cases where a person is wrongfully convicted of a crime and later cleared of all charges based on new evidence of innocence.
According to the Registry, information collected in exoneration cases shows that most wrongful convictions are caused by misconduct by police officers and by prosecutors. Police actions including falsifying evidence, witness tampering, and violent interrogations are found in a large percentage of wrongful convictions. Registry studies show the following information:
- Official misconduct contributes to wrongful conviction in 54% of exonerations
- Misconduct by police officers accounts for 35% of wrongful convictions
- Misconduct by prosecutors accounts for 30% of wrongful convictions
- The overall rate of misconduct varies by crime, from 72% in murder cases to 32% for most non-violent crimes
- Police misconduct is approximately four times higher in drug-related crimes
- Prosecutorial misconduct is approximately four times higher in white-collar crimes
Misconduct is more common in violent crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, and sexual assault commonly handled by criminal attorneys. Violent felonies account for approximately 80% of exonerations, while drug-related crimes make up approximately 60% of non-violent crimes.
In recent months, police misconduct has been linked to a number of cases focused on racial profiling, beginning with the May 25th death of George Floyd. The actions of the Minneapolis Police Department gained national attention and ignited a surge in national protests against racial profiling and police brutality tactics used by law enforcement agencies. George Floyd’s death and other recent deaths caused by police misconduct prompted the Black Lives Matter movement and placed a national spotlight on police reform.
According to the Registry, there have been 2,400 convictions of defendants who were later found innocent over a 30-year period. Studies show that hiding evidence that’s favorable to a defendant is a common type of police misconduct in many criminal cases. For that reason, a criminal attorney who provides criminal defense is an important asset for a person arrested and charged with a crime in Minnesota. Without proper defense, the chances of a wrongful conviction are much greater.