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.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-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. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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

People facing criminal charges in Minnesota often ask, “Can you defend yourself in court?” You can represent yourself in court when charged with a crime. Self-representation, however, is not typically in the accused's best interests, even if courts allow it.
Parents whose children have been arrested or accused of committing a heinous crime might wonder, “Can a minor be charged with a felony?” A minor aged 14 years or older but below 18 years may face felony charges in Minnesota.
People accused of or under investigation for assault might ask, “What are the charges for assault?” Minnesota has five levels of assault charges. First-degree assault is the most serious offense, and a conviction often results in the most severe penalties, like long prison time and hefty fines.