Cases were dismissed last week from Philadelphia courts that were based on work by narcotics officers. As a result of the dismissal of these 41 drug cases, the defendants will be freed so long as they do not have any outstanding charges. These defendants had been awaiting trial following investigations by narcotics field officers who have been accused of planting evidence. At least 16 other cases connected with the squad have been dismissed.
The dismissals came a week after the District Attorney notified the Police Commissioner that six officers would not be called in to testify in drug cases as they had lost their credibility. Allegations against the officers include fabrication of evidence, planting drugs, stealing money and use of excessive force. These allegations, if perpetrated by an officer, could easily result in people being wrongfully charged with crimes and then being wrongfully imprisoned.
If 41 cases have been dismissed as a result of these officers’ conduct, there will likely be more to follow. Moreover, it is important to remember that though we have the utmost respect for the police, there is a healthy skepticism to be had in regards to the investigative process. In one case, a defendant was arrested for drug possession after one of the officers in question entered his apartment to arrest him for violation of house arrest. While in the apartment, the officer looked around without a warrant and found drugs which could have belonged to any of the people living there.
Cases like these, where the evidence and investigations are brought into question, can result in people being charged and convicted wrongfully. Every person accused of a crime is entitled to an aggressive defense of their rights in order to prevent these issues.
Source: Philly News, “Judge tosses out 41 drug cases linked to corrupt police narcotics squad,” Barbara Laker and Mensah M. Dean, Dec. 13, 2012