Complaints Related to Commission of a Criminal Offense
Missouri law enforcement officers are subject to discipline if they commit a criminal offense. But a conviction or guilty plea is generally not required for POST to show an officer “committed a criminal offense” for purposes of licensure discipline. This means law enforcement officers may be disciplined for commission of any criminal offense, regardless of any conviction or plea, even in situations where the prosecuting attorney’s office declined to file charges.
Discipline imposed against a law enforcement officer’s license can include probation, suspension, or revocation—that is, the types of discipline that may end or seriously limit an officer’s ability and opportunities to work in law enforcement. If you are a Missouri law enforcement officer facing an allegation from POST that you committed a criminal offense, contact the attorneys at Dolley Law, LLC today to protect your license and employment.
Legal Standards for Complaints Involving Criminal Offenses
Under Missouri law, POST may “discipline any peace officer licensee who has committed any criminal offense, whether or not a criminal charge has been filed.” § 590.080(2) RSMo. If “a peace officer has engaged in conduct that Missouri statutes identify as a criminal offense,” POST may seek to discipline the officer’s license. O’Brien v. Department of Public Safety, 589 S.W.3d 560, 563 (Mo. banc 2019). This includes conduct constituting either felony or misdemeanor offenses. Id.
If criminal charges were filed, POST may use certified copies of a criminal plea or finding of guilty to establish cause for discipline. Director of Department of Public Safety v. Alexander L. Betts, No. 05-1041PO (Mo. Admin. Hrg. Comm’n, Feb. 24, 2006). However, if criminal charges were not filed, POST may still file a complaint against an officer’s license and try to prove, during a hearing before the Administrative Hearing Commission (“AHC”), that the alleged conduct of the officer likely constitutes a crime under Missouri law. Missouri law does not require an arrest, indictment, guilty plea, or conviction for license discipline. And this is, in part, because a disciplinary proceeding against an officer’s license is an administrative, not criminal (or even “quasi-criminal), proceeding and can only result in discipline against the officer’s license. See O’Brien, 589 S.W.3d at 563.
Nonetheless, without a criminal conviction, POST must still establish by the preponderance of the evidence that a licensee committed the elements of a criminal offense. While evidentiary standards before the AHC differ somewhat from criminal court, the basic rules of evidence still apply during these hearings. Unlike a criminal case, where the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the burden of proof in a disciplinary proceeding is “the preponderance of the evidence.” In defense, an officer can hire an attorney to subpoena and call witnesses, present evidence, and cross examine POST’s witnesses.
While the administrative process is different and an accused officer cannot be criminally convicted or imprisoned, the consequences of these proceedings can still be severe. Officers who are subject to discipline may have their licenses placed on probation, suspended, or revoked. An offense as minor as peace disturbance can result in license revocation. See, e.g., O’Brien, 589 S.W.3d at 562.
Officers who receive a complaint from POST alleging they committed a criminal offense need representation from an attorney with experience in both criminal and administrative law. Understanding the substantive law and the unique procedures of the AHC is critical to a successful defense.
If you are notified that a complaint has been made against your Missouri peace officer license, contact Dolley Law, LLC y at (314) 645-4100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.