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Under the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act, MCL 15.391 et seq., false or inaccurate information cannot be used against a law enforcement officer in subsequent criminal proceedings.
This case arose out of a disturbing encounter between Dajuan Hodges-Lamar and defendants, Sean Harris, William Little, and Nevin Hughes, who at the time were police officers for the city of Detroit. In November 2009, while on duty, defendant Hughes approached Hodges-Lamar while he was seated in a car at a gas station. Defendant initially appeared to question the latter, but quickly proceeded to assault him while defendants Harris and Little, who were also on duty, stood by and did nothing to stop the assault. Hodges-Lamar filed a complaint which spurred an internal investigation by the Police Department's Office of the Chief Investigator (OCI). All three defendants were called to testify at a Garrity hearing. The OCI presented defendants with an advice-of-rights form drafted by the police department. The language of this form, like the language of DLEOA, did not expressly require truthful answers or truthful statements. Defendants also received a reservation-of-rights form drafted by the police department. All three defendants made false statements at the Garrity hearing. Defendants Harris and Little denied that Hughes had any physical contact with Hodges-Lamar. Defendant Hughes admitted that he removed Hodges-Lamar from his car during questioning, but he maintained that he did not use any unnecessary force against him. After defendants had made their statements, a video recording of the incident, provided to the OCI, surfaced. The prosecutor charged defendant Hughes with common-law felony misconduct in office, misdemeanor assault and battery, and obstruction of justice. Defendants Harris and Little were each charged with one count of common-law obstruction of justice. The obstruction-of-justice charges were based on allegations that the officers lied during the initial investigation. Defendants brought motions in district court to dismiss the obstruction-of-justice charges. The district court concluded that defendants' statements were protected by the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act (DLEOA), even if the information provided was false or misleading. The prosecution appealed in the circuit court, which concluded that the district court had not abused its discretion by dismissing the obstruction-of-justice charges. The prosecution filed applications for leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower courts and reinstated the obstruction-of-justice charges. The majority concluded that the district court abused its discretion by excluding defendants' false statements under MCL 15.393. The majority reasoned that the statute internally limits the phrase 'involuntary statement' to include true statements only, and that false statements and lies therefore fall outside the scope of the statute's protection. Defendants filed separate applications for leave to appeal, each arguing that the Court of Appeals majority erred by concluding that the DLEOA's scope of protection did not encompass defendants' false statements.
Did the appellate court err in holding that the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act’s scope of protection did not encompass defendants' false statements?
The court reversed the judgment and held that based on the plain language of the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Officers Act (DLEOA), MCL 15.391 et seq., false or inaccurate information could not be used against a law enforcement officer in subsequent criminal proceedings because it concluded that the Legislature intended the word "information," as used in MCL 15.391, to include statements that may be true or false. Hence, the court held that applying the plain language of the DLEOA, it required the dismissal of the obstruction of justice charges under MCL 750.505 against defendants because defendants provided their statements under threat of termination. The court ruled that the statements were protected by the DLEOA and could not be used against them in the criminal proceeding, which in this case, their statements provided the only basis for the obstruction of justice charges.