2.12.2013

Applying the Principles of Criminal Law


By Elizabeth Hall

Introduction: Scenario
Crime Time
Crime Time (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In this essay we will apply the principles of criminal and civil law to a scenario that involves criminal offenses by the victim, and the suspect along with a civil rights violation committed by the officer involved.   We will go through the issues that were raised by all involved, what charges can come stem from these issues, and how the officer was negligent in performing his duties.  The facts of the case are that Officer Jones was working a midnight shift, and came across a victim at approximately 2:00 AM, exclaiming that she has been forcibly robbed by a suspect wearing white pants and a red shirt and a ski mask, approximately 5’8” tall and armed with a gun.  She has a heavy laceration on her head and another on her lip, and is wearing blood soaked clothing. 
Officer Jones calls for medical attention and backup, however spots a potential suspect roughly a block away from them wearing a dark shirt and white pants.  Leaving the victim he tries to stop the suspect by saying “Stop Police” loud and clear, from 20 feet away, which is ignored on the first try.  The second time Officer Jones yelled “Stop Police” the suspect turned around, and Officer Jones noted a huge bulge in his right front pocket.  He was then 7 feet away from the suspect.  The suspect reached into his pocket with the bulge after Officer Jones had advised him to keep his hands where he could see them, and began taking out something from the pocket.
 At this point, Officer Jones fired his weapon landing a shot in the suspect’s left shoulder. He then called for more medical vehicles as the suspect fell down.  When approaching the subject he found a baggie containing smaller bags of cocaine and a cell phone.  Later during the actual investigation it is learned that the suspect was not involved in the robbery.  In fact, the victim had made the entire crime up having been involved in a domestic dispute with her husband, whom she did not want arrested.     
Crimes Involved
In this scenario, there are several crimes that have been committed by the victim, the suspect, and the husband of the victim.  The victim committed the crime of falsely reporting a crime to a peace officer, which also resulted in the officer causing bodily injury to the alleged suspect. According to the Michigan Penal Code Act 328 of 1931, section 750.411a (n.d.) is guilty of a felony punishable by ten years, fines in excess of $25,000 or both however the judge sees fit to apply sentencing. This is because the false report caused Officer Jones to believe that the suspect was armed and the suspect was shot in the shoulder causing serious bodily impairment to him.
 The suspect is guilty of possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance reports Price (2011) which is covered under the Texas Controlled Substance Act section 481.112 and states that if a person knowingly manufactures, distributes, or has on their person a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. This is indicated by the drugs being packed in individual bags inside a larger bag and the presence of the cell phone which is common with drug dealers. The other crime he is guilty of is fleeing and evading police in the second degree as held by Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 520.100 (1975).   This qualifies as second degree because the suspect was on foot and did not stop for the officer and is classified as a Class A misdemeanor. 
The last crime in this scenario was committed by the husband of the victim, as domestic violence is a crime whether reported or not. This is both a crime against the individual and the community as reported by the Kentucky Justice Cabinet for Health and Family Services (n.d.).  This crime falls under Assault in the Fourth Degree under KRS 431.005(2) (a).  This statute provides that if there is probable cause available for the officer to see then an arrest is warranted. 
Civil Rights Violation
Officer Jones committed a civil rights violation under the Fourth Amendment when he shot the suspect in the arm because he violated Section 1983 use of force statues as noted by the Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Academy of Santa Fe New Mexico (DPS, n.d.).  According to them an officer is liable for excessive use of force if they continue to use force after resistance has stopped, and use force which causes unnecessary injury which Officer Jones did both when he shot the suspect in the shoulder.  The scenario clearly shows this, and case law follows this in the case of Bouggess v. Mattingly No. 06-5619 heard before, Chief Judge; and DAUGHTREY and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges on March 5-April 16, 2007 in Louisville Kentucky U.S 6th Circuit Court.  This is also related to Tennessee v. Garner which sets the standards for cases such as these in defining excessive use of force (FindLaw, 2013).
Conclusion
While criminals commit crimes as in the case of our suspect, victim, and husband of the victim they still have civil rights that must be protected.  Our officers are protected by using the correct amount of force needed to diffuse whichever situation they have to address.  However when they use more force than is necessary they can find themselves in civil court. The fourth amendment and the Civil Rights Acts of our country protect us from overzealous or corrupt officers.



References:
Department of Public Safety Law Enforcement Academy of Santa Fe New Mexico (DPS) (n.d.).  Civil Liability and Civil Rights Online. Retrieved From: nmlea.dps.state.nm.us/wp-content/.../Civil_Liability_and_Civil_Rights.pdf
Kentucky Justice Cabinet for Health and Family Services (n.d.). Model Domestic Violence Law Enforcement Policy.  Retrieved From: http://chfs.ky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/54B7AF71-5428-4EC6-AE69-158BBFBF8031/0/ModelDomesticViolenceLawEnforcementPolicy.htm
Kentucky Revised Statutes (1975) 520.100 Fleeing or evading police in the second degree. (1) A ... Retrieved From: www.lrc.ky.gov/krs/520-00/100.PDF
Michigan Penal Code (n.d.).  750.411a False report of crime or report of medical or other emergency; violation; penalty; payment of costs by juvenile; jurisdiction; definitions. Retrieved From: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(yw5svgbhuxprn455y2f34c45))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-750-411a
Price, M.J., (2011).  Possession with Intent to Distribute.  Retrieved From:  http://www.georgetownlaw.net/CriminalDefense/DrugCrimes/PossessionwithIntenttoDistribute.aspx




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