New Report: Police Misconduct Responsible for 54% of Wrongful Convictions

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.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.
Minnesota recently passed a public safety bill that brings sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. While minors sometimes run afoul of the law, the juvenile justice system seeks to account for the differences between children and adults. Therefore, while the penalties for adults convicted of crimes focus on punishment, those for juveniles are aimed at diversion and restorative practices.