It happens, with eye-opening and sadly recurring stories recurrently surfacing to underscore a hideous potential that can easily turn real when wrongful conduct on the part of criminal law officials is not uncovered.

Here’s a case from Arkansas, with recently unfolding details that might flatly shock some readers and undoubtedly put a real scare into individuals who too-readily concede absolute honesty and routinely just outcomes in the criminal justice system.

The bottom line in the tale: But for evidence that emerged to implicate a sheriff’s deputy in criminal wrongdoing, a completely innocent and unassuming third party would likely have been convicted and sent to prison on a serious drug charge.

Fortunately for that individual, word leaked to criminal authorities in a southeastern Arkansas county that a deputy was pressuring an informant to plant methamphetamine in a car, which the deputy would subsequently stop for an alleged traffic violation. Pursuant to that stop, the deputy would “find” the drug and frame an unsuspecting passenger in the vehicle.

The plan quickly unraveled when investigators quietly worked alongside the informant to gather further information. As for the informer, he told authorities that the deputy was blackmailing him by threatening escalated drug charges in a pending matter.

The deputy was arrested earlier this year. A news account of the matter reports that he was sentenced by a state judge last week to a five-year probationary term on charges of abusing his office and “using a communication device in commission of a drug offense.”

It is of course chilling to contemplate how such a matter might have easily yielded a different outcome, with an unsuspecting and innocent person ending up locked behind bars.

That potentiality — indeed, the possibility of wrongful police conduct and related improprieties — routinely attaches in criminal matters in Arkansas and across the country, and is certainly one motivating factor underlying a proven defense attorney’s careful probing of the government’s case in every client matter.