Police Misconduct and Release-Dismissal Agreements

10 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2019

See all articles by Peter A. Joy

Peter A. Joy

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Kevin C. McMunigal

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Date Written: November 10, 2018

Abstract

There are numerous barriers to reducing and eliminating police misconduct, especially excessive use of force and other civil rights violations. Some involve prosecutors. One such barrier, is reluctance on the part of local prosecutors to bring charges against police officers the prosecutor works with and relies upon. Another barrier, though, confronts surviving victims of police misconduct seeking relief in civil courts: prosecutorial use of release-dismissal agreements to shield police misconduct. In a release-dismissal agreement, a prosecutor offers to dismiss criminal charges against a person in exchange for the person giving up the right to file a civil lawsuit based on injuries resulting from police misconduct. Under such an agreement, a prosecutor uses criminal charges as leverage to obtain a release of civil claims against a police officer, police department, and municipality.

Use of release-dismissal agreements raises significant legal and ethical issues, which we address in this paper. We begin by analyzing the arguments for and against release-dismissal agreements and the possible scenarios in which a prosecutor may enter into one. We also discuss the legal status of release-dismissal agreements and the ethical issues they raise.

Keywords: ethics, legal ethics, professional responsibility, prosecutor, police, police misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K19, K40, K41, K49

Suggested Citation

Joy, Peter A. and McMunigal, Kevin C., Police Misconduct and Release-Dismissal Agreements (November 10, 2018). 33 Criminal Justice 31 (Fall 2018) ; Washington University in St. Louis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 19-03-05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3359813

Peter A. Joy (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States
313-935-6445 (Phone)

Kevin C. McMunigal

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States
2163683613 (Phone)
2163682086 (Fax)

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