DUI Case Challenged Amid Officer Perjury Allegations
A Virginia man recently went on trial following his arrest on multiple, serious DUI-related charges, including DWI and possession of a controlled substance.
Our D.C. DUI lawyers understand the only thing he was actually found guilty of was an improper lane change – basically a traffic infraction. The others were either dismissed or he was found not guilty.
What makes this case especially interesting, though, is the fact that the officer who arrested him has since been indicted by a grand jury on perjury charges, relating to that initial arrest.
According to the officer’s employer, the department had been somehow made aware of the fact that during that trial, there were a myriad of significant discrepancies between the facts and the officer’s description of what happened. At that point, the department began its own criminal investigation into whether one of its own had committed perjury.
Normally, we do not have a great deal of faith in internal investigations, as agencies tend to give their own the benefit of the doubt – in a way they don’t do with the general public. But the department in this case apparently did find that the officer had fudged the facts in order to bolster chances of a conviction. Subsequently, the grand jury has indicted him on charges of perjury and falsely summoning or giving false reports to law enforcement officials. A special prosecutor has been appointed to handle the case. The officer, who has been on the force since 2005, has been placed on administrative leave without pay. He was arrested earlier this week.
Questions have since been raised about whether other pending cases the officer is working on may need to be dropped, as his credibility has virtually plummeted. This is one of the reasons our office frequently seeks to obtain the personnel files of arresting officers in DUI cases. A history of dishonesty of any kind can result in substantial challenges as to his or her standing as a reliable witness.
The fact is, cases like this aren’t as rare as we would like to think. Actual instances of officer perjury are almost assuredly much higher, but only a few actually get caught.
Last July, a number of officers in L.A. were charged with filing false police reports and perjury after they reportedly attempted to cover for the fact that a DUI suspect had been stopped on originally shaky legal grounds.
In November, a New Jersey politician who was stopped for DUI released a dash camera video that showed that the officer had lied about the circumstances surrounding the stop, including a supposed improper lane change that didn’t actually occur.
And then earlier this year, a Utah highway patrol officer was reportedly caught arresting hundreds of people for DUI – after they reportedly had passed the breathalyzer tests.
Similar examples across the country are endless.
Too often, officers are not uninterested parties in these cases. The more arrests they have, the better it looks for them. Sometimes, their agencies are even granted federal money, based on the number of stops or arrests made within a certain time frame.
The bottom line is, despite the credibility the court affords to police officers, their testimony and account of the facts should be carefully sifted and weighed as much as anyone else’s -if not more.
If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716.