Questioning law enforcement critical to criminal defense

Earlier this month, an alleged Chicago gang member who was arrested in La Crosse back in April on suspicion of selling illegal drugs pleaded not guilty to federal drug charges. The 50-year-old Indiana man, accused of being a member of the Black Disciples, allegedly sold cocaine and heroin according to agents from the FBI.

He was arrested along with 16 other members of the Black Disciples in an investigation in which agents found 1.3 kilograms of crack cocaine, .44 kilograms of heroin and numerous guns. Authorities said they used wiretaps, surveillance and informants in the investigation, including a convicted murderer and member of a rival gang who earned $100,000 for his cooperation in the investigation.

Law enforcement, both at the state and federal levels, are not particularly concerned about cutting criminal suspects any deals. And really, they need not be. That isn’t their job. What is their job, however, is to conduct their investigations legally, and with due respect for the rights of criminal suspects.

Without commenting about this case in particular, it is not uncommon for law enforcement officers to cut corners, make mistakes, or intentionally break rules governing criminal investigations. When a suspect becomes a criminal defendant, this is an important area to begin in building a solid case.

Even when prosecutors have incriminating evidence against a defendant, it is important to look into how that evidence was obtained. Did law enforcement properly conduct all searches and seizures? Did they inform the criminal suspect of their Miranda rights? If not, evidence and confessions may be deemed tainted and suppressed from evidence at trial. This is obviously not an issue in every case, but it is a big deal when it comes up. Sometimes it can steer a case in favor of a defendant.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Alleged Chicago gang member arrested on drug charges in La Crosse,” Lydia Mulvany, July 11, 2013. 


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