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An Overview of Internal Affairs Investigations in California

An Overview of Internal Affairs Investigations in California

Your job as a police officer is to investigate crimes and send criminals away. What if you are accused of a crime and Internal Affairs contacts you?

The California internal affairs defense lawyers at our firm can help you. Among our ranks are former cops and prosecutors. We are aware of how the system works and can represent cops accused of criminal or administrative misconduct.

In this article, we offer you an overview of IA investigations in California. We cover:

  • How internal affairs investigations work
  • What are the rights of police personnel in an IA investigation?
    • POBRA
    • The Lybarger Admonishment
    • Your Constitutional Protections
  • What can an internal affairs defense attorney do?

You will also find our articles on Criminal Defense of Police Officers and California State Employees and Criminal Convictions helpful.

George FernandezGeorge Fernandez
14:16 30 Apr 24
Excellent 10 out of 10, Helped resolve my case. Jeremy explained everything and made everything easy to understand.
21:33 24 Apr 24
If you are looking for a lawyer that listens, is aggressive where needed, and holds his word above all else, Todd is the best pick. I had hired multiple attorneys prior to hiring the Spodek Group for a white collar case. The first thing that stood out to me was the cost, as anyone going through the process and dealing with the system, money was tight at that time - especially after hiring and firing multiple lawyers. The cost was not as high as others which was definitely a plus. Todd's intake process was also unlike other attorneys. He took the time to actually listen. He cared. He was trying to put himself in my shoes while I was explaining the situation to him and he really took the time to understand the whole situation. Other lawyers will give you 15 mins and send you a retainer agreement. Not Todd, I think he spent almost two hours with me as I was explaining everything.Not only was he great during the onboarding process, he was supportive and very informative through the entire plea process and eventually sentencing. After hiring him, I asked if I should hire a prison consultant, he told me to save my money as he would do everything they would. He was right and held up to his word. Later on I would hear from others that went with the prison consultants that they were a waste of money - I am glad I listened to Todd!When it came time for sentencing, two days prior to sentencing, the prosecutor tried increasing my proposed prison time by almost double - apparently a normal move. Todd and his team worked with me non-stop through the weekend prior to sentencing to ensure that I was not given additional prison time. Again, he took the time to listen and came up with a strategy to explain the case with great detail.Unfortunately, I did plead guilty as that was my best option. Todd and his whole team wrote up nearly 300 pages of a summary of what happened and why I should not be given prison time. If I breakdown the amount I spent with Todd versus the amount of work that I saw being done, I am shocked I was not charged four times as much. The other benefit was, a lot of criminal defense lawyers were just a single attorney with a paralegal or two. Todd had a team of people that I dealt with (5-7 people that I interacted with), but he was ALWAYS accessible. It would never take him more than an hour to reply unless he was in court.I was sentenced to prison and I was emotionally distraught. Todd and his team did whatever they could even after sentencing to make sure I was alright. He personally stayed in touch with my family to ensure I was doing alright and offered support to them. Most lawyers would consider the job complete at sentencing, not Todd.After prison, Todd still spent time with me to make sure I was on the right track and avoiding any potential risks in the future. He has also been giving advice on how to navigate probation etc and has not been looking at the clock for billing.Although I wish I had never been arrested in the first place, I am glad I had Todd and his team in my corner. Without them I likely would have had to spend a lot more time in prison than I did.Thank you, Todd, and the entire Spodek Law team, for helping turn what was a nightmare into a manageable situation!
Yelva Saint-PreuxYelva Saint-Preux
19:26 19 Apr 24
I am immensely grateful to the entire team at Spodek Law Group for their unwavering dedication and exceptional expertise throughout my case. From our initial consultation to the final resolution, their professionalism and tireless advocacy made all the difference. Their strategic approach and attention to detail instilled confidence in me every step of the way.Thanks to their hard work and commitment, we achieved a truly favorable outcome that exceeded my expectations. Not only did they navigate the complexities of my case with precision, but they also provided invaluable support and guidance during what was undoubtedly a challenging time. I cannot recommend Spodek Law Group highly enough, especially attorneys Todd Spodek and Claire Banks; they are beacons of excellence in the legal profession.YSP.
Katherine SunKatherine Sun
18:08 18 Apr 24
my lawyer is Alex Zhik. Efficient, patient and professional
Nun yaNun ya
17:48 18 Apr 24
Todd, Ralph and Alex are amazing. Helped my husband get from a double digit number with multiple charges to a single digit, by the time I blink he will be out. They very professional and help with all your needs. They dealt with my anxiety and worry very well and they understand that your family member needs to get home as soon as possible.
Keisha ParrisKeisha Parris
20:45 15 Mar 24
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko BeautyTaïko Beauty
16:26 15 Mar 24
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence.Thank you team!
K MarK Mar
01:37 25 Jan 24
I recently had Spodek Law Group represent me for a legal matter in NYC and I am thoroughly impressed with their services.Alex Zhik secured the best possible outcome for my case.It was a seamless journey from the initial consultation to the resolution of my legal matter. From the moment I spoke to Todd about my case, his enthusiasm to help was evident, setting a positive tone for the entire experience. The efficiency and professionalism displayed by the team is commendable.A particularly noteworthy aspect of their service is their user-friendly portal to upload your documents/evidence. This not only simplified the process, but showcases their commitment to streamline the client experience.Lastly, in an industry where legal fees can often be a concern, I found their pricing to be very reasonable, making needing legal assistance feel accessible and stress-free.I am grateful for their support and wouldn't hesitate to turn to them again in the future.

How internal affairs investigations work

What is an Internal Affairs Investigation?

An Internal affairs investigation is an investigations into possible misconduct and/or criminal activity by officers in a law enforcement agency.

Administrative or Criminal investigation?

An administrative internal affairs investigation focuses on whether an officer has committed noncriminal work-related misconduct.

Criminal internal affairs investigations examine whether an officer has committed a crime. These can result in criminal prosecution and incarceration.

Other Agencies May Investigate

In some cases, other entities besides the officer’s employing agency could become involved.

Sometimes, federal officials come in to investigate when a possible civil rights violation was committed. This happened in the historic 1991 Rodney King case.

As a rule, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office must investigate any case of an officer-involved shooting or in-custody death.

On top of this, police commissions, inspector generals and outside watchdog agencies may provide additional oversight.

What are the rights of police personnel in an IA investigation?

Depending on the situation, an officer who is the subject of an IA interrogation can rely upon a number of statutory and constitutional provisions for protection.


This California statute (Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights) applies to all administrative internal affairs investigations.

POBRA establishes conditions with which an employing law enforcement agency is required to comply in an interrogation that could lead to “punitive action” in the form of written reprimand, demotion, suspension, dismissal, salary reduction, or transfer as a consequence.

POBRA lists protections as follows:

  1. Any interrogation generally must be conducted at a reasonable hour, preferably while the officer is on duty. It must only endure over a reasonable period.
  2. The interrogating officer and others present must inform the officer being interrogated of their ranks, names and command.
  3. No more than two interrogators may ask questions at a time. Further, the officer being interrogated must not be subjected to any offensive language.
  4. Before the interrogation, the officer must be informed of the nature of the investigation.
  5. The officer getting interrogated is allowed to bring his or her own recording device to the interrogation.
  6. Anytime an interrogation is based on matters that could possibly result in punitive action, that officer can be represented by a union representative or California internal affairs investigation defense lawyer.
  7. If, at any point prior to or during the interrogation, it is deemed that the officer could be charged with a crime, that officer must immediately be informed of his or her constitutional rights.

POBRA applies only to administrative investigations that are conducted by an officer’s employing agency. These rights do not apply in investigations that are “concerned solely and directly with alleged criminal activities.”

Additionally, according to the California Supreme Court’s interpretation, POBRA provides one more protection. Should it be “deemed” during an internal affairs investigation that a police officer could be facing criminal charges, he or she must be read their Miranda rights.

The Lybarger Admonishment

Just like other employees, police officers must follow orders from their superiors – even during a California internal affairs investigation. If their commanding officer orders them to answer a question and they remain silent, that officer risks being disciplined for insubordination.

Nevertheless, the officer retains their Fifth Amendment constitutional right against compelled self-incrimination.

How the United States Supreme Court has reconciled these conflicting provisions is by clarifying that the cop in this circumstance retains immunity as to “compelled” statements. Pursuant to the Garrity/Lefkowtiz rule, an officer may be disciplined for standing silent in the face of an order, but any subsequent compelled statement (and any evidence that comes from such a statement) cannot be used against the cop in a criminal prosecution.

Pitchess Motions

In a Pitchess motion, the defendant in a criminal case can request access to an officer’s personnel file. In such cases, the defense is looking for witnesses who filed prior complaints against the officer. They can potentially use these witnesses to impeach the officer at trial.

Your Constitutional Protections

A peace officer also has their Fourth Amendment constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure, and their Sixth Amendment constitutional right to counsel to rely upon.

What this means is that cops may not be arrested without probable cause, subjected to unreasonable detention, refused access to counsel or otherwise forced to endure conscience-shocking treatment at the hands of law enforcement.

Nevertheless, things can get hairy when it comes to interrogations of police officers by their employers. The line between an employer or enforcer becomes blurry. One can, therefore, float in a rather uncomfortable gray area between a California internal affairs investigation and an arrest.

What can an internal affairs defense attorney do?

You probably know at least one case in which a skilled criminal defense lawyer helped a suspect get out of trouble. Surely you should reap the same benefits if you happen to be a suspect, right?

The IA lawyers at Spodek Law Group, still keep cop hours –one of us is always available. Whether you have been involved in a critical incident, or you’re facing an internal affairs interrogation or criminal charge, we’re here to stand with you.

As former police personnel ourselves, we know how to handle IA, the media and other parties who could be involved. We can help you navigate the process so you get the full benefit of your rights and protections.

The California Internal Affairs Defense Attorneys at Spodek Law Group Can Help You.

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