Monday, February 27, 2012

Florida Circuit Court to Cops: If you lie to get evidence, don't ask us to trust you about consent

One thing ordinary folks might not realize, is the fact that the law allows the police to lie like Jon Lovitz in investigating crime. In fact, the cops are free to walk up to your home, knock on your door and tell any manner of falsehood in an effort to gain entry. Once inside, what the police observe in plain view or what they uncover under additional consented-search (even if garnered under more lies) is fair game in charging and trying you, your family members or guests with crimes for.

This tactic is so well-used, that in the criminal justice field, it's become known as the "Knock and Talk" or "Tap and Rap." For those of us who practice criminal defense, we've often wondered how come a cop can admit lying with no reprecussions, while our clients are crucified if they initially lie to police? (Although we did once have a judge opine to us that they felt it was everyone's god-given right to lie just a little to the police). How hard is it to picture someone who uses deceit and trickery in one part of their job, using it in another?

A Circuit Court in Volusia County, Florida pondered this moral dilemma and issued what is one of the most eloquent and succinct orders we have ever seen. Money quotes:

-"What are the costs of teaching the community that law enforcement officers, whom ideally deserve the trust of the citizen, cannot be trusted to tell the simple truth? That no one is wearing the white hat anymore? That the ends justify the means? That the virtue of honesty is essential in our families and individual lives, but that same virtue is optional for the executive branch of our government in the exercise of its police powers? A nation founded on the notions we find in our Constitution is surely better than that."

-"A liar, after all, is a liar. Frankly, it is much easier to wholeheartedly endorse this concept than it is to warm up to the notion that law enforcement officers are permitted to lie to citizens in the course of pursuing justice."

-"...there is significant sacrifice by the state when it relies upon dishonest police conduct at the base of its prosecution...As we all know, a little boy may falsely cry 'wolf' only so many times before no one listens. A simple statement, it is hoped, that does not fall upon deaf ears in the law enforcement community."

Order Granting Knock and Talk Suppression

Kudos to Judge Will for an excellent opinion. We can only hope more courts follow his lead.

Hattip our pal Grand Strand DUI defense for a copy of the order

*Nothing in the above post is meant to be construed as legal advice. You got a legal question? Go hire yourself an attorney.*

No comments: