Virginia Law

Police Brutality in Virginia Doesn’t Have to be the Norm | Sara Gaborik

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Police Brutality Doesn’t Have to be the Norm in Virginia or Anywhere

August 15th 2014

by Sara Gaborik

In light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, many are seeking ways to safeguard their community against police brutality.  Sadly, there are members of law enforcement who abuse their power and use excessive force.   In over a decade of practice, I have seen countless cases involving police brutality but as a whole, most officers do not take advantage of their position.  However, officers who do are typically habitual offenders.  The number one solution is to demand that all law enforcement wear body cameras when on duty.  Studies show that when encounters with the public are recorded, incidents of police brutality become almost non-existent.  In Rialto, California, a year-long study showed an 88% decrease in complaints filed since their police force instituted body cameras.   Just this week, in response to recent cases of brutality and an opinion from a Federal Court case suggesting this as a solution to 4th Amendment violations as well, NYC officials proposed all law enforcement wear body cameras.

Law enforcement and prosecutors alike should be banging down the doors of City Hall demanding funding for this valuable tool.   Imagine how effective a prosecution could be with the judge, jury, and Defendant seeing firsthand the actions that led to a stop and arrest.  Yet neither side is pushing for officers to wear cameras – in fact,  some localities are vocally against the practice.  But why?  The only answer is that both are fully aware body cameras would end the practice of effectuating arrests using illegal tactics.  Using cameras would mean no more 4th Amendment violations swept under the rug, no more falsifying alleged statements, no more exaggeration of alleged actions by the Defendant, and no more downplaying the use of force in used to make the arrest.

If we want communities to trust those who are there to protect and serve, then there needs to be transparency in everything that they do.  Incidents like the one that occurred in Ferguson would no longer occur at the alarming rate they are now, and if things do happen, there would be no question whatsoever about who did what.  Officers should welcome this technology as a tool in combatting false claims of police brutality or in instances of officer-involved shootings.  My brother-in-law was recently involved in such a scenario and was completely cleared of any wrongdoing by his body camera, which he voluntarily opted to wear.  His rationale in requesting the camera in the first place was he had nothing to hide.  He is extremely thankful for his foresight and continues to wear his camera daily.

In the long run, body cameras will create a stronger support of law enforcement within the communities they police and be a cost effective tool for the prosecution of crimes.  As a Nation, we should demand that all law enforcement be required to wear body cameras and that all law enforcement vehicles be equipped as well.  Once we develop this kind of transparency, we can rebuild trust in those sworn to protect and serve and begin to have a true system of Justice that holds everyone involved responsible, no matter which side of the aisle they sit on.

 

NOT GUILTY DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN INNOCENT IN VIRGINIA

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“NOT GUILTY DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN INNOCENT IN VIRGINIA”

June 14 2014

By Sara Gaborik

DISCLAIMER : Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case.  Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case.

Q : If I’m guilty of a traffic or criminal charge in Virginia why wouldn’t I just plead guilty?

A : This question comes up a lot in my practice, and rightfully so. The difference between “not guilty” and “innocent” isn’t always obvious, but it’s important—“not guilty” does not have to mean (and usually doesn’t mean!) “innocent.”

The law requires a prosecutor who brings a case against you to prove every element of the crime alleged beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor fails to meet this burden, the only possible, legal, and right outcome is a “not guilty” verdict. We can reach this verdict in a variety of different ways.

First, though people are sometimes wrongly accused of crimes they did not commit, a far more common occurrence is someone being over-charged. Perhaps you did do something wrong, but the prosecutor and police are alleging that you did something far more serious than what actually happened.

Second, it can also happen that even if you did exactly what the government says you did, the prosecutors and police did not follow Constitutional laws and requirements when they obtained the evidence they want to use against you. Examples of this include searching you or your property without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, not following proper procedures when asking people to identify the perpetrator of an alleged crime, and obtaining a confession from you without letting you know about your rights beforehand.

[As a side note, this is the number one reason you should NEVER consent to a search or tell the police anything. There are many complicated, complex laws that protect you from searches and seizures by police. Law enforcement must follow these laws, and if they don’t, any and all evidence they find during their search and seizure of your person and/or property cannot be used against you in court. However, the police know that they can get around these laws by obtaining your consent to search or speak to you. Don’t do their job for them by agreeing to a search or agreeing to talk—your liberty is at stake!

A good rule to keep in mind is that if the police are asking to search you or your property, it’s because they know they don’t have the right to search you or your property. If a police officer asks to search you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with telling them to leave if they’re at your residence, or asking to be on your way if they’re at your vehicle. Keep in mind, once a police officer has decided to arrest you, there isn’t much you can say to change their mind, so keep your mouth shut! Police are trained in using interrogation tactics designed to make you talk and incriminate yourself. The only foolproof way to beat these interrogations is to politely decline to speak to them and to ask for your lawyer. Remember—you can be polite without cooperating and incriminating yourself! Law enforcement can never use your decision not to speak to them against you in court.]

Both of the scenarios discussed above—over-charging and failure to properly obtain evidence—can lead to not guilty verdicts, even if you did commit a crime. Simply because you aren’t innocent doesn’t mean you can’t walk away with a not guilty. But how?

In the first example, cases that are over-charged can sometimes be good ones to take to trial, before either a judge or a jury. As a seasoned trial lawyer, I know how to attack and weaken the prosecutor’s case, and how to show the fact-finder that the government hasn’t proven what they need to prove to convict you.

In the second example, there are several very specific motions that can and should be filed. After handling thousands of cases during my professional career, I’ve learned how to be creative, accurate, and precise with my motions. Good motions in cases where evidence was improperly obtained typically lead to the suppression of that evidence, and suppressed evidence typically leads to not guilty verdicts.

Now, certainly there are some cases where a not guilty verdict isn’t a realistic outcome. However, even in those cases, I know how to find weaknesses in a prosecutor’s case and exploit those weaknesses in order to obtain a favorable plea bargain.

So, just because there may be evidence against you, including your own statements, doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel. I often say I specialize in tackling bad facts and turning negatives into positives. I take great pleasure in putting the government to the test and making them work hard to prove their cases. My philosophy has always been the harder I work for my client, the better the outcome—and fortunately for my clients, I like hard work and love good outcomes.

Call today for a free consultation and let’s talk about how I can work for your better outcome today.

 (804) 780-3083

An experienced and aggressive lawyer serving Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and nearby Central Virginia communities: THE LAW OFFICES OF SARA M. GABORIK WILL FIGHT FOR YOU.