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Police misconduct: What you need to know

Police misconduct includes many acts, from discriminating against a person of color to illegally searching a person's home. Officers know what they are and are not supposed to do on the job, but that doesn't always mean they abide by those rules.

Fortunately, there are both state and federal repercussions for those who take advantage of their powers as police officers. In many cases, misconduct is punishable with fines or prison time. Sometimes, internal investigations result in unpaid or paid leave.

Which federal law makes it unlawful for the police to discriminate?

The Police Misconduct Provision is a federal law that makes it illegal for federal or state law enforcement officers to take any actions that impact a person's rights protected by the Constitution or other laws. For example, you are guaranteed freedom from illegal searches and seizures. If an officer enters your home or searches your vehicle without a warrant or just cause, he or she could be committing a crime.

What should you do if you're a victim of police misconduct?

If you're a victim of police misconduct, keep good documentation of everything that has happened so far. Take note of times, dates and names. If there are witnesses, get their information and prepare it for your attorney.

You have to fight against misconduct, especially when it implicates you as a criminal or someone who has been associated with a crime. Your attorney needs as much information about what occurred as possible to help guarantee that the officer who committed misconduct is held responsible for those actions. In the end, you're fighting the officer's word. Things like body cameras or recordings help show what truly happened when the officer violated your rights, and recordings or witness testimonies could be the key to a strong defense.

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