Police Internal Affairs Investigations Lawyer in Florida

Florida Police Internal Affairs Investigations Lawyer

Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, detectives, and personnel of other law enforcement agencies who are facing internal affairs investigations should protect themselves by seeking the legal guidance of an attorney independent of their employer, union, or other professional organization.

Law enforcement and corrections agency internal affairs investigators typically probe allegations of criminal or professional misconduct by sworn personnel. Investigators may exonerate the target of an investigation, recommend disciplinary action, or refer the results of an investigation to local authorities for possible criminal prosecution.

If you have received notice that you are the target of an internal affairs investigation, you need to act promptly to protect yourself and your professional reputation. You need to understand your legal rights pertaining to the IA process. Prior to an initial interview or contact with a union representative, you should speak to an attorney experienced with employment civil rights cases.

At Cruz Law Firm, P.A., we represent police department officers and correctional officers in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and throughout the Florida Panhandle who are facing internal affairs investigations. Our law firm is ready to investigate the charges against you and prepare an effective legal strategy to protect your job, your reputation, and other interests. we will work vigorously to seek the best possible outcome in your case.

You should not face an internal affairs investigation on your own. Our employment attorneys are proud to have helped Florida citizens from all walks of life navigate internal investigations and other challenging employment matters. Our dozens of five-star Google reviews are a testament to the quality of legal services we are committed to providing clients. Let us explain your legal options and what to expect from an internal affairs investigation. Contact us for an initial consultation with a Florida internal affairs investigation defense attorney.

Understanding Police Internal Affairs Investigations

Internal Affairs Investigations OverviewInternal affairs investigations begin with the process of receiving a complaint. A complaint is one or more allegations of misconduct made by a person who claims an employee of a law enforcement or correctional agency has acted inappropriately. For example, a complaint might entail allegations of the use of excessive force or claims of brutality by police officers.

After some level of investigation to determine that a complaint is valid, the subject of the complaint — the police officer or correctional officer — is notified in writing that he or she is the target of an internal investigation. Some agencies notify personnel of every citizen’s complaint, regardless of their validity.

The extent of IA investigations will vary according to the seriousness and complexity of each case. Some complaints may be resolved after a cursory investigation.

For some minor complaints, law enforcement agencies may offer mediation conducted by a mediator in lieu of investigation and adjudication. Both the complainant and the employee under investigation must voluntarily agree to mediation.

Investigations of more significant complaints should result in one of four resolutions:

  • Sustained — a preponderance of the evidence indicates the allegations are true and the conduct at issue is a violation of agency rules or the law.
  • Exonerated — the conduct at issue is not a violation of agency rules or the law.
  • Unresolved — the allegations cannot be proven true or untrue by a preponderance of the evidence.
  • Unfounded — a preponderance of the evidence indicates the allegations are not true.

Some law enforcement agencies may apply additional distinctions, such as finding that “policy failure” led to the complaint and that policy revisions may be necessary.

The results of investigations, adjudications of cases, and recommendations for disciplinary actions, if any, are typically forwarded to a final deciding authority, often with the recommendations of commanding officers.

Disciplinary measures may include:

  1. First Level Written Reprimand — the least-severe corrective action.
  2. Second Level Written Reprimand — official censure of unacceptable acts or behavior.
  3. Suspension — temporary removal from active duty and loss of pay.
  4. Demotion — reclassification to a lower rank.
  5. Dismissal — loss of employment.

If an internal affairs investigation sustains the allegations against an officer, the agency must submit its investigative findings and supporting documentation to the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, which has the authority to suspend or revoke the officer’s certification. The Commission’s penalties include:

  1. Written reprimand.
  2. Probation up to two years (with or without mandatory re-training or counseling, if applicable).
  3. Suspension up to two years (with or without mandatory re-training or counseling, if applicable).
  4. Revocation of certification as a criminal justice officer.
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Common Complaints and Incidents Leading to IA Investigations

Internal affairs investigations are meant to protect the public from inappropriate behavior by members of law enforcement agencies and correctional departments while also protecting the rights of agency members accused of misconduct. Strong and transparent IA programs help to maintain the confidence of the public.

IA detectives typically investigate:

  • Allegations of the use of excessive force or brutality
  • Use of lethal force, including firearm discharges
  • Allegations of false arrest
  • Allegations of violations of civil rights, such as racial profiling or biased policing
  • Allegations of corruption and perjury
  • Allegations of gross misconduct
  • Allegations of sexual harassment
  • Allegations of harassment in the workplace or hostile work environment
  • Deaths involving prison inmates, jail inmates, or detainees
  • Prisoner escapes.

Employees’ Rights During an IA Investigation

Upon being notified that you are the target of an IA investigation, you should get a copy of the incident report and review it. If there are inaccuracies in the report, these should be noted and brought to your supervisor’s attention. You may be able to complete a supplemental report. You should review your department’s duty manual and any policies, procedures, and rules relevant to the complaint.

Any time a law enforcement or corrections officer in Florida is under investigation and subject to interrogation for any reason that could lead to disciplinary action, they have multiple rights codified by Florida statute. This includes the right to have an attorney present whenever the interrogation relates to the officer’s continued fitness for law enforcement or correctional service.

You should contact an employee rights lawyer before any Internal Affairs investigator interviews you and have your attorney present.

Your attorney can ensure that all of your rights are upheld, including your right to:

  • Be informed of the nature of the investigation prior to the interview or interrogation.
  • Be informed of the names of all complainants prior to the interview or interrogation.
  • Be afforded the opportunity to examine the evidence against you prior to the interview or interrogation.
  • Not be subjected to offensive language, threats, or offers of reward.
  • Be provided access to any recording of any interrogation session.

As a law enforcement officer, you have an obligation to answer every question in an interview honestly under penalty of termination. But if an interview is for a criminal investigation or touches on criminal charges, then you have the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination as any American citizen. As a public employee, you also have Garrity Rights, which protect public employees from being compelled to incriminate themselves during investigatory interviews conducted by their employers.

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How an Attorney Can Help with Your Internal Affairs Investigation

A Tallahassee employment rights lawyer with Cruz Law can represent you and defend you during questioning about allegations of inappropriate behavior arising from your duties as a law enforcement or correctional officer. We can assist you by:

  • Scrutinizing the allegations against you to help you understand the basis for the investigation and any potential disciplinary action.
  • Investigating the charges thoroughly to gather all evidence available to build an effective, persuasive defense on your behalf.
  • Identifying factual and legal defenses available to you.
  • Advising you of your rights at each stage of the case, including whether you should provide a statement to investigators or contest the disciplinary allegations.
  • Negotiating a settlement, if appropriate, to help you avoid more severe discipline.
  • Advocating in your defense if you choose to contest the disciplinary allegations against you.

Contact a Tallahassee Internal Affairs Investigation Defense Lawyer Today

If you are a law enforcement or corrections officer who is the target of an internal affairs investigation, your livelihood and good name are at risk. You should not face this matter alone or rely on Florida Police Benevolent Association representatives to save your career. You need experienced legal counsel.

The legal team at Cruz Law Firm, P.A., has nearly two decades of combined legal experience defending employees’ rights and demanding just treatment in the workplace. Our law firm has represented workers in some of the most challenging employment law and civil rights matters. Our attorneys have taken more than 100 cases to trial in both federal and state courts in Florida.

Contact Cruz Law today for a confidential consultation about your rights as a certified law enforcement or corrections officer in Florida.