In a unanimous opinion issued by the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC), the panel of judges held that police officers, regardless of whether they lie, cannot be charged criminally from an involuntary statement. The court, acting in People v. Harris (SC docket No. 149872), overturned a decision by the Court of Appeals. The case examined whether three Detroit officers could be charged with obstruction of justice after lying in an internal investigation about whether one of them, Officer Nevin Hughes, assaulted a person while on duty. The issue was whether the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act (DLEOA) rendered the charge invalid. The DLEOA protects officers making “involuntary statements,” meaning information provided at the threat of any employment sanction, from use in a subsequent criminal proceeding.
In an opinion authored by Justice Brian Zahra, the Supreme Court held that the law’s intent was to allow officers to provide information during internal investigations, seemingly with immunity from prosecution to encourage truthfulness, although this seems to have caused the opposite to occur in this instance, noted Justice Zahra.