Local News

Paperwork Mistake May Result In Dismissal Of Charges In Chapel Hill

Posted June 16, 2004

— Dozens of police charges in Chapel Hill could be thrown out due to a paperwork mistake involving a police officer.

According to Mitch McKinney, he has been a police officer for eight-and-a-half years. Last month, McKinney applied for an advanced certificate. The state board of training and standards told McKinney there was no record of him being a sworn officer with Chapel Hill police.

"It was a real surprise at the time," McKinney said.

Police Chief Gregg Jarvies said the paperwork problem happened when McKinney moved from full-time to part-time. Someone filed papers taking him off the force altogether. When he returned to full-time, the mistake was not fixed or noticed until a year later.

"It's frustrating when an administrative error may lead to consequences we would rather not see," Jarvies said.

The district attorney's office is now considering dropping dozens of charges. Defense attorney Don Dickerson plans to go back over more than 50 pending cases if McKinney was the only officer involved, more than likely the case will be dismissed. Most of them are traffic offenses while some are more serious.

"We're looking to see if we have any clients that may be affected by this," Dickerson said.

Dickerson said the rules are clear. In this instance, people's rights are at stake if McKinney was not a sworn officer.

"He has no more authority than any other citizen who may be out there regardless if he's in uniform or driving a police car," Dickerson said.

Because of the mistake, the police department has gone back over their records to make sure all their officers are technically on the force. The district attorney's office say this incident may also affect cases that have already tried or taken care of. Those people could file motions to have those cases dismissed.

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