Skip to Content Top

Things Cops Do That Are Illegal: What a Police Officer Can and Cannot Do


In this blog, Oakley & Oakley discusses several things that cops do that are illegal. In the last few years, the increasing scrutiny of police conduct has raised public awareness about unlawful police practices. However, criminal defense lawyers have known about shady law enforcement practices much longer. 

One important advancement to police oversight, strangely enough, is cell phones. Everyone has a high-quality camera in their pocket at all times. The amount of third-party video footage of police interacting with the public is a great help to criminal defense and civil rights lawyers. However, not every unlawful action is caught on camera by third parties. 

Here are the common illegal police tactics that criminal defense lawyers often see:

#1 Turning off or Muting Body Cameras

The first thing cops do that is illegal is turning off or muting body cameras. Several states and many cities, including Lexington, require police officers to have body cameras running whenever they interact with the public. This has been celebrated as a huge advancement in police oversight.

However, it is becoming more and more common for cops to mute or turn off their body cams at key moments. This is not always coincidental.

In a number of recent court cases, body cameras should have captured everything that happened, but the technology mysteriously failed. Many police departments have no repercussions for a police officer turning off their camera, even when department policy requires them to have it running. Sometimes a short suspension from work is all that happens. 

Courts are grappling with an important legal question because this is becoming more and more of an issue. This question is whether there should be a presumption of evidence tampering or illegal conduct when a cop shuts down a recording. 

Many criminal defense lawyers firmly support a presumption of illegal evidence tampering or other unlawful conduct when the mic or camera stops recording right before a disputed interaction. 

#2 Illegal Searches

Another thing that cops do that is illegal in Lexington is unlawful searches. When performing a search on a person, a car, or a home, law enforcement must follow strict constitutional rules. 

The Supreme Court has crafted complex rules that police are required to follow before they can perform a lawful search. Failing to follow these rules violates the Fourth Amendment. 

When the Fourth Amendment is violated during a search, evidence that the police found may be excluded from court. When evidence is thrown out of court, it could be the difference between acquittal and conviction. 

#3 Unlawful Interrogations

The third illegal police action that we see in Lexington is unlawful interrogations. Similar to searches, interrogations also have strict constitutional rules enforced by courts. Interrogation rules protect your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The famous court case of Miranda v. Arizona led to the creation of the term “Miranda Rights.” The police must advise you of your right to remain silent and right to legal counsel immediately after an arrest before they ask you any more questions. 

A violation of your Miranda rights can also lead to the suppression of evidence against you. Under the exclusionary rule, incriminating statements can be thrown out of court if they were illegally obtained by law enforcement. 

You should contact a Lexington criminal defense lawyer if you believe you were the victim of police misconduct.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
Share To: