Presumed Guilty? Not So Fast . . .

The presumption of innocence, or being considered innocent until proven guilty, is a basic tenet of criminal law. Unless a person is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he or she is not to be convicted of a crime. However, this presumption of innocence seems to be a theory more than a reality for many people arrested for crimes.

A person is taken to jail and bond is set that, in some cases, is much too high to allow release. A person's mug shot and his or her arrest become public record, and often, a person's colleagues, neighbors, and other members of the general public are the most likely to presume guilt, rather than innocence, after an arrest.

Criminal defense lawyers are among those who are well aware that an arrest is not necessarily an indication of guilt, and now, a Guthrie police officer is accused of wrongfully arresting people on frivolous or unfounded complaints for personal reasons.

Most police officers are honest, hardworking men and women; however, those who abuse their position not only infringe upon the rights of those they wrongfully detain or arrest, but also their fellow officers who are eyed with distrust after such an abuse.

Guthrie police lieutenant Mark Bruning is accused of arresting his wife's ex-husband on a public intoxication complaint at a concert last month. Witnesses say Bruning was yelling at other concertgoers when Kyle White, 29, came upon him.

White says he turned to leave to avoid a confrontation with Bruning, but Bruning accused him of being drunk. White told The Oklahoman, "[H]e just basically said, ‘You're drunk, you're going to jail.'” Other witnesses say that it was obvious that Bruning was out of line and that White, who accuses Bruning of harassing him even prior to the arrest, was sober.

White says that, over the last several months prior to the arrest, Bruning has followed him around town and sent him "threatening text messages." After his arrest, White says that other officers apologized for Bruning's behavior, indicating, "It was that obvious that I wasn't supposed to be there."

White's public intoxication ticket was thrown out and his case dismissed. Bruning is accused of harassing and intimidating people and attempting to make wrongful arrests in prior incidents. Last year, he was named as a defendant in a lawsuit after a bar owner said he and fellow officers intimidated patrons in order to harm the bar owner's business, and that they tried to get intoxicated patrons to make false statements against the proprietor.

One of the officers named as a defendant was the brother of Khan's ex-wife, whose divorce was pending at the time of the alleged harassment. Police have a dangerous and difficult job, but those who abuse their positions make it harder on all of their fellow officers.

If you are arrested, you should not assume that the police officer is on your side; in fact, he or she likely assumes your guilt. Do not talk to police or answer any questions until you have retained legal counsel, and then speak to police only on the advice of your lawyer and with your attorney present. For more information about your rights after arrest, visit our criminal defense website. Schedule a free consultation with a skillful Oklahoma attorney with a proven record of success.    

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