Police accountability has been a pressing issue in the United States for many years, as high-profile cases of police brutality and misconduct have brought attention to the need for reforms to increase transparency and accountability. In 2020, the state of Colorado passed a new police accountability law, one of the most comprehensive in the country, aimed at addressing these concerns. The law includes a range of provisions, including the requirement for body cameras for all officers and the ban on the use of chokeholds. These provisions are intended to reduce the incidence of police misconduct and increase transparency in policing.
While the new law has been widely praised for its potential to increase police accountability, it has also raised questions about how it will impact criminal defense cases. Criminal defense attorneys are tasked with representing their clients to the best of their ability, and this includes exploring all available legal avenues to challenge evidence and ensure that their client’s rights are protected. The new law will likely significantly impact how criminal defense cases are approached in Colorado, as it will provide more evidence and potentially challenge the validity of evidence gathered by police.
Increased Evidence in Criminal Cases
One of the primary ways that Colorado’s new police accountability law will impact criminal defense cases is through the increased amount of evidence that will be available. The law requires officers to wear body cameras and to activate them during all interactions with the public. This means there will be a video record of many police encounters, including arrests and searches. For criminal defense attorneys, this will provide a wealth of new evidence that can be used to build a defense case.
One of the most significant impacts of Colorado’s new police accountability law on criminal defense cases is the increased amount of evidence available to prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys. The requirement for body cameras for all officers means that more video evidence will be available of police interactions with suspects. This could be particularly significant in cases where there are disputes about what occurred during an encounter between an officer and a suspect, as the video evidence will provide a clear record of what transpired.
In addition to body camera footage, the law requires officers to document their interactions with suspects more thoroughly. This documentation will include details such as the reason for the stop, any use of force, and the encounter’s outcome. This documentation may provide additional evidence to prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys about the circumstances of an arrest or other police interaction.
Overall, the increased evidence that will be available as a result of Colorado’s new police accountability law is likely to have a significant impact on criminal defense cases. While it may present new challenges for criminal defense attorneys, it also has the potential to provide valuable evidence that could be used to protect their client’s rights and achieve a favorable outcome.
Improved Police Testimony
Another way that Colorado’s new police accountability law will impact criminal defense cases is by improving the quality of police testimony. The law requires officers to receive additional training in de-escalation techniques and implicit bias. This training will help officers to understand their own biases better and to avoid using excessive force in situations where it is not necessary. As a result, police testimony may be more accurate and reliable, which could benefit both prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys.
Increased Scrutiny of Police Conduct
Colorado’s new police accountability law also includes provisions for increased scrutiny of police conduct. The law creates a new state agency, the Office of Independent Monitor, which will investigate allegations of police misconduct. This agency can subpoena witnesses and review police body camera footage. For criminal defense attorneys, this increased scrutiny of police conduct could provide additional opportunities to challenge the validity of evidence or to argue for a dismissal of charges.
Potential Challenges to Evidence
While Colorado’s new police accountability law may provide new opportunities for criminal defense attorneys, it may also present new challenges. For example, the increased evidence available through body camera footage could make it easier for prosecutors to build a case against a defendant. Additionally, the improved quality of police testimony could make it more difficult for criminal defense attorneys to argue that a defendant’s rights were violated during an arrest or search.
Colorado’s new police accountability law is a significant step toward increasing police transparency and reducing police misconduct. While the law primarily focuses on improving police accountability, it will also significantly impact criminal defense cases. With the requirement of body cameras and improved police testimony, more evidence will be available to both prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys. This increased scrutiny of police conduct may also present new opportunities for criminal defense attorneys to challenge evidence or to argue for the dismissal of charges.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019-2022” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2022 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020-2022. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence case