I recently had a case in which my client was charged with evading the police, assault on a police officer, and resisting arrest. The police reports read like a one man crime wave. The client sped away at a high speed from the police, failing to yield to the lights and siren. Once he was stopped he came out aggressively and acted in a manner trying to intimidate the officers. He failed to follow orders and when he did so it was only after being told numerous times.
The police got him out of his car at gun point and ordered him to the sidewalk. Once there he failed to get to his knees as ordered. In fact, he was ordered to get down on his knees three times. He refused. The officer was elbowed when he approached and tried to handcuff the client.
The only problem was, almost all of the report wasn’t true.
Thankfully, the officers’ version of the events recounted in their police reports wasn’t the only “truth”. Of course, we had the client’s version (now a criminal defendant) but who would believe him when the case turns solely on his word against the police officers’? The “silent witness” became the police patrol car video system. The entire encounter between the defendant and the two police officers was captured on the video.
The video clearly showed that the defendant didn’t fail to yield to the police. He didn’t evade anyone. Simply put, he reacted (perhaps a little slowly) to the police who were some distance behind the defendant. My client turned on his right turn signal and pulled to the curb. He didn’t get out of his car aggressively at all. He followed the instructions of the officers and walked to the sidewalk with his hands in the air. Once there, the video clearly established that one of the officers quickly ran up to the defendant and without warning picked him up, flipped him in the air, and threw him very forcefully to the ground. Only then did the defendant fight back and try to defend himself.
The real truth is, you can’t always believe the police officer just because he is a police officer. The other lesson to be learned is that a defendant is always better off if the incident is captured on video. In my office I always feel better if the police have videotaped an incident. If the client did something wrong he can see it and admit what he did. If he didn’t then his “silent witness” can tell the real truth.