When a police officer is facing a civil or criminal lawsuit for excessive use of force, many times they will have a history of other instances of misconduct that have occurred throughout the course of their career. However, the federal rules of evidence and each state’s rules of evidence place limitations on how character evidence is used unless it is directly related to the issue at the trial. A brief overview of how character evidence works will help demonstrate this point.
The rules of character evidence
Rule 404 of the federal rules of evidence specifically prohibits the introduction of character evidence as proof that the defendant acted in accord with the same trait or type of behavior. This is mostly done due to issues of relevance, time saving, or losing focus of the acts in question of the trial. Each trial is usually limited to one specific instance of behavior, and it is inappropriate for a jury to infer innocence, guilt, or fault from an unrelated act in the past. Juries are generally not allowed to hear all kinds of things that would cause them to think someone is a bad person based on prior acts and decide the case accordingly.
Each state’s rules of evidence follow the federal rules very closely, so whether the trial ended up in federal court or state court would not make much of a difference regarding character evidence. The Texas state rules of evidence also copy federal rule 404 into law almost exactly, with a few minor differences that only apply to a small number of cases.
Canton officer charged with illegally acquiring drugs while on duty
A Canton, Texas police officer was arrested after deceiving individuals into giving him drugs. The U.S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas filed multiple charges for obtaining controlled substances by misrepresentation. The Canton officer allegedly used his position on the police force to obtain hydrocodone by fraud, deception, or misrepresentation. Each individual felony count carries the possibility of up to four years in prison.
Is this kind of evidence admissible in a later police brutality case?
If this officer was later involved in a civil or criminal trial related to excessive use of force, this evidence would almost certainly not be admissible. This would be due to relevance (he would no longer be on trial for the drug charges), as well as to avoid the jury making an inference that the person is guilty based on prior, unrelated crimes.
In a situation where the police have beaten someone, the best strategy is to retain a lawyer who can compile all of the relevant evidence that would be able to be introduced at trial. Usually only things such as a video of the interaction, witness testimony, or medical records are introduced to prove the beating happened along with the resulting injuries. It is not necessary to introduce evidence about other cases from the past.
It is not important to learn all about the rules of evidence to file a lawsuit, as an expert police brutality lawyer is compensated to figure these issues out on your behalf. Even if the officer has already been charged criminally for a beating, drug crimes, of any other illegal acts, it is still possible to file a civil lawsuit against the department or city to obtain compensation.
Get legal help now
If you have been injured or beaten by a police officer in Canton or anywhere close by in Texas, a lawyer can discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit with you. The Cooper Law Firm has offices in Longview and they have been helping injured Texas residents for over a decade.