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

Knowing your rights and understanding thе laws regarding police conduct arе critical componеnts of ensuring fair trеatmеnt during intеractions with law еnforcеmеnt officеrs. It’s a necessity not only for thosе in conflict with thе law but all citizens, as everyone has fundamental rights that must bе uphеld. 

Thе following arе somе of thе things cops can and cannot do. Contact a criminal defense attorney if you believe the cops have violated your rights during an arrest or investigation in California. 

Police Officers Can Lie

It is legal for police officers in California to employ deceptive techniques during investigations and interrogations. They may make false statements regarding the existence of evidence or witnesses with the goal of prompting a suspect to either confess or disclose key information about a crime. While this may seem unfair, law enforcement maintains that using such tactics aids significantly in upholding public safety and solving crimes.

Police Officers Can Arrest You Without a Warrant

In California, a police officer has the authority to arrest an individual without a warrant under certain circumstances. One of these situations is when they personally witness the commission of a crime in their presence.

In other instances where an officer didn’t directly observe a criminal act but has reliable information that gives them probable cause to think someone committed or is about to commit a crime, arresting this person without warrant would typically be permissible.

Police Officers Can Use Confidential Informants

Law enforcement in California can make use of various resources for their investigations, one of which includes confidential informants. These individuals provide critical information that aids in surveillance or undercover operations regarding alleged illegal activities.

Due to the potential risks they take by helping law enforcement, it’s common practice not to disclose the identities of these confidential informants during trials unless absolutely necessary and legally required. 

A Police Officer Cannot Coerce a Confession

In California, alongside all other states, a police officer cannot use coercion tactics to force a  confession out of an individual. Coercion may involve physical intimidation or threats as well as unreasonable psychological pressure.

All confessions need to be given voluntarily for them to hold up in court. Therefore, if there is evidence that the police coerced you into confessing guilt for an offense you did not commit, this raises serious constitutional issues which might render such statements inadmissible.

Police Officers Cannot Plant or Tamper With Evidence 

Regardless of the circumstances or objective, any police officer in California who attempts to fabricate evidence – for instance by planting drugs on a suspect – is committing an extremely serious crime. Similarly, falsifying a police report about events witnessed or actions performed while on duty is also illegal.

Police officers in California cannot infringe upon your protected right to privacy by conducting a search of you, your belongings, or property without the proper authority. They must either have clearly expressed consent from you or a lawfully issued search warrant from a court.

There are also some recognized exceptions where the police can conduct searches without warrants, like exigent circumstances, where there is an immediate threat to public safety or risk that evidence may get destroyed, for instance. 

What To Do If Police Violate Your Rights

If you believe a police officer in California has violated your rights, there are several immediate actions you should take that will protect you and give you the best chance at justice:

Stay Calm

It’s critically important to remain calm during interactions with the police, even if you believe they are doing something that may be illegal. You don’t want to escalate the situation or find yourself facing additional charges. 

Document Everything 

Make sure you document all details regarding your encounter, including the date, time, location, names, and badge numbers of officers involved, as well as other relevant facts or actions taken.

Find Witnesses 

If anyone witnessed this interaction between yourself and law enforcement, try finding them so they can serve as potential witnesses regarding how the events unfolded.

As soon as possible after the incident occurs, reach out to a competent criminal defense lawyer to determine what steps you should take next. 

Understanding what the police can and cannot do ensures individuals are well-equipped to protect their rights during encounters with law enforcement.