Clients who are charged with drug crimes will sometimes insist that the police planted the drugs on them or in their car. It is difficult for people to understand that, unless we can prove the drugs were planted, this is a terrible defense that may do more harm than good. When a client makes this claim, all that we can do is look for the evidence and hopefully catch the officer in the act.

A claim of wrongdoing on the part of the officer should never be made until we have evidence of the wrongdoing because prosecutors, judges, and jurors will rarely side with the defendant if it is a matter of he said, she said, with no evidence.

Do Cops Plant Drugs on Suspects?

Of course they do. Police officers are human and many become jaded as they do their jobs. In some cases, the officer has been corrupted and, in other cases, the officer is cutting corners to try to get a “bad guy” off the street. We have seen over and over again that some police officers will:

It is often the defense attorney who uncovers the evidence of police misconduct, like in the recent Baltimore case where the public defender discovered that the officer’s body-cam video actually showed officers planting drugs and then pretending to discover them. It is rare that officers will turn over evidence of their own wrongdoing, and it appears that it was unintentional on the part of the officers. They were not aware that their bodycams recorded an additional 30 seconds before they turned the camera on, and they thought that they were only turning in the fake evidence of the discovery of the suspect’s drugs:


The police commissioner immediately crafted a possible defense for the officers, stating: “It’s certainly a possibility that we’re looking into to see if the officers in fact replaced drugs that they had already discovered in order to document their discovery with their body-worn cameras on.” After the video became public, the state’s attorney still used the officer as a witness in another case without concern for his reliability.

Baltimore has paid more than $13 million in settlements for police misconduct since 2011, and, earlier this year, a consent decree was put in place in federal court to address the department’s ongoing issues with racial discrimination.

How can Defense Lawyers Find Evidence of Police Misconduct?

In some cases, there will not be any evidence. Defense lawyers should:

  • Insist on obtaining all evidence in the possession of the prosecutor and police departments including dash cam videos, body cam videos, and the recordings of all statements taken.
  • Obtain the statements and reports from any internal investigations conducted by the department, and, when they refuse to turn them over, have a court review the records in-camera to determine whether there is Brady material in the file.
  • Watch all videos, listen to all recordings, and do not rely on the officer’s written summaries of events and interviews.
  • Re-test, re-weigh, and challenge the state’s case at every opportunity, retaining independent experts where appropriate.
  • Take seriously clients’ allegations of police misconduct and investigate any leads that could produce evidence of police misconduct.

Do You Suspect Foul Play in Your Drug Case?

If you believe that the police have set you up, you have an uphill battle ahead of you, but we will review the evidence in your case and fight to obtain all evidence that may prove your claims. Schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case by calling (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.

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