Official Misconduct & Preservation of Evidence

Police Misconduct 

Police misconduct entails illegal or unethical actions by police officers. Examples include police brutality, dishonesty, fraud, coercion, forced confessions, abuse of authority, destroying and hiding evidence, and sexual assault, including the demand for sexual favors in exchange for leniency.

When police misconduct is present in a case, it increases the possibility of wrongful convictions. Police misconduct is a factor in up to 50 percent of all DNA-based exonerations.

Prosecutorial Misconduct 

Prosecutors determine who will be held accountable for a crime. They work with police to gather evidence, charge suspects, and take defendants to court. They have a lot of power that can easily be abused. 

Prosecutorial misconduct occurs when a prosecutor breaks a law or a code of professional ethics in the course of a prosecution. Examples include making an improper argument, improperly using the media, introducing false evidence, failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, and discriminating during jury selection. 

Prosecutors are supposed to seek justice. If they do their jobs right, they can create a safer society that is fair and just. But if they succumb to prosecutorial misconduct, there is a high probability that they will cause a wrongful conviction. 

Preservation of Evidence

Preservation of evidence laws requires government agencies to keep evidence that may contain biological material. More than half of the states have preservation of evidence statutes. Montana’s statute requires the agency to maintain evidence for a minimum of three years after a conviction. 

Why is preserving evidence important? 

  • The results of biological testing can improve a defendant’s innocence claim. 
  • If the case was tried prior to the advent of forensic DNA testing or with an early or outdated form of DNA testing, having the preserved evidence would allow forensic analysts to conduct tests now.
  • If DNA testing was never conducted before the original trial even though advanced testing techniques that could identify the perpetrator were available, having the preserved evidence would allow forensic analysts to conduct tests now.

Relevant Cases: