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An interrogation room

Why Do the Police Seem to Be “After Me?”

Dennis C. Hogan Nov. 17, 2021

This article is written with a defendant who actually committed an offense in mind. Sometimes the police and prosecution wrongly accuse a defendant. I have a completely different attitude and view in those cases.

A question I often get from my criminal defense clients is: Why are the police so concerned about what I did when there are so many other more serious crimes that they could be working on?

There are police forces of all sizes. They range from the small one officer towns in the rural areas to the large thousand officer cities in urban areas. So there are different levels of case specialization in the many police departments. A small department’s officer would handle everything and call in outside help for serious and complex cases. A large department would have seen numerous serious and complex cases so they handle them in-house.

Serious and complex cases need to be handled by police employees that have received advanced training and have an experience that allows them to properly handle serious and complex crimes.

In contrast, minor crimes are handled by less experienced police employees because they need to ‘cut their teeth’ working minor investigations before they advance to serious investigations. In fact, if the police employees want to advance to the more prestigious bureaus of the department they have to do good work in the bureau in which they are assigned.

That is the environment in which a minor criminal case arrives. The police employee who is assigned to the case is incentivized to do the best they can on the minor case. The police employee has no personal concern about those cases that are serious and complex because those cases are handled by someone else. Your case is handled beginning to end without regard to other defendants that have done something worse than your offense.

I have been telling my clients for decades, and it has not changed after serving as County Attorney, the head of the county prosecution department, 'the goal of the prosecutors is to never see you again.' If they can give you a plea that makes you wake up and deal with your underlining problems then that is what they will do. So if it is your first offense then you are likely to get a deal that sends you on your way with a warning to behave well in the future.

If you are in front of the judicial system a second time your case is going to be handled differently than it was the first time. Judicial planners believe that 90 percent of defendants will not return a second time merely because they were embarrassed by the social disgrace of being reported in the local news and showing up at the local Courts. Therefore, prosecutors and the judge will be lenient for a first offense. However, if you have a second arrest you are now in a different category to the prosecutor and judge. They believe that if you are in the second-or-more-offense-category you need to receive a punishment.

Depending on the seriousness of the crime and the number of times you have previously been found guilty you will eventually get a local jail sentence, then the state prison and the amount of time will be progressively more with each additional offense.

I have seen instances where a small department wants a tougher penalty for the defendant than a large department is getting for the same offense. The small department is shocked by the seriousness of the crime because they rarely see it. A small department is also more likely to have prior knowledge of the defendant because of the limited number of people in the town. The large departments see the same offense more frequently and therefore know the level of sentence the Court will give for that offense. The employees in a large department are unlikely to have previous knowledge of a defendant. Despite the police and prosecutor's desires for the offense or prior off the recorded knowledge of the defendant, the Court has the final say on the sentence so police and prosecutors, regardless of the department's size, adjust to the Courts

If the police and prosecutor seem to be stuck on your first case like a dog on a bone, you can explain that as the police employee focusing on the task in front of them. The process may take longer than my client would like but in the end, we can expect the prosecutor to settle for a relatively lenient sentence if they believe the defendant will never again be arrested and return to the judicial system.