A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

When Public Safety Trumps Justice

There is a common thread that runs through any discussion of lying cops. First we start with the premise that cops lie. Then someone says "well not all cops lie," or "yeah, but those are isolated incidents." Then the discussion of dash cams and recorded interrogations begins with someone invariably saying "we need to trust the cops."

There are those who don't trust cops, period, and there are those who believe that hey, if a cop lies to get a "bad guy" off the street, so what?

The most recent discussion began with this video of what is nothing less than a conspiracy to obstruct justice. It was not done in a murder case or a multi-defendant drug trafficking case, but a DUI case. A misdemeanor DUI case.

Here's the question: Is this the first time, in the history of law enforcement, that this has happened?

Of course not.

It goes on all the time, unrecorded, disputed by prosecutors and ignored by judges, and all in the name of "public safety." How many times does a criminal defense lawyer hear stories like this only to hear the client say, "but no one will believe me over the cop."

They're right.

Then we have to move the discussion to "but cops put their life on the line every day, and never know when some gun-toting asshole will put a bullet in their head." True.

I just never understood the comparison.

This is not about "public safety." It's about "justice."

This comment I read says it all: "It's a tough call for me because lying about drugs & guns does take them off the street but violates personal freedom."

There you go. That's where we are.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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  1. Anonymous11:54 AM

    So when a lying federal agent is sentence to two years in prison is this justice or good defense work.

  2. depends on the facts of the case, as you well know.

  3. Anonymous2:15 PM

    Let’s just say for the sake of argument that justice was served! Good lawyer-ing can certainly be debated especially when an agent from the same agency, committing the same offense, received 6 months home confinement (yes, that mean no prison time). And yes, this is a fact.

  4. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that it's not true people want to trust the cops. It's not true they don't believe they lie.

    The truth is that they don't actually care.

    I'm starting to think this partly because of posts like yours (and mine, as I also frequently write on this topic). Defense attorneys know cops lie and not just once in awhile. But, more importantly, we aren't the only ones who know it. JUDGES know it, but never call the cops on it. And -- egads! -- the general public has to know it, too. Watch almost any cop show on television and you'll see cops lying to seal the deal on a nasty case.

    What are we left with? Sadness. Abject sadness.

    People KNOW cops lie, but "trust" them over defendants and witnesses for the defense every day of the week. (Well, at least Monday through Friday, and sometimes on Wednesday in states like California where budget cuts require furloughs so the courts close for the day.)

    Nevertheless, let's keep up posting about it. Good work.

  5. Anonymous7:24 AM

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