What do you think happens in a criminal case if you take the witness stand and tell lies, a.k.a. commit perjury? How about if you take the witness stand, tell lies, and then it is demonstrated in court that you’re lying?
If you’re a regular John Q. Public, you get charged with a crime called perjury. In Kentucky, perjury is a felony offense. You or me or anyone else could be facing 1-5 years in a jail cell for telling even on little lie on the witness stand.
How about if you’re a police officer? What about if the lies that you are telling are to help the prosecution? Apparently you get desk duty.
Those who regularly practice criminal defense should know this situation all to well: you have a client who was arrested for a drug offense following a vehicle stop. The client swears up and down that the stop went one way and the police officers all say something completely different from your client.
Even if your client is telling the truth, there isn’t a judge in the world that would take the word of a defendant charged with a drug crime over five police officers.
Unless….you have a video tape that proves the police officers are all perjuring themselves.
The ABA Journal reported a few days ago on a case out of Chicago where an intrepid defense attorney managed to subpoena a police car camera showing the traffic stop of his client.* After the police officers testified that the stop was totally lawful and above-board, he played it for the court showing that all of the police officers lied. On the stand. Under oath.
And the punishment? They get desk duty.
I like to believe that most police officers are just men and women performing a thankless job and trying to do the right thing. I also like to believe that bad police officers (i.e., ones that tell bald-faced lies on the stand) are held accountable by something more than an administrative punishment when the rest of us would be facing felony criminal charges.
But stories like this should give everyone pause. Remember, in Kentucky, if you get pulled over by the police turn your phone’s voice recorder on. It could save you a criminal conviction, a lengthy prison term, and other various horribles.
And it might even get some police officer put on desk duty.
*Whichever officer was responsible for making sure that evidence mysteriously disappeared is surely cleaning the toilets for the rest of the month.