If you have been charged with a criminal offense but there are doubts raised about certain pieces of evidence, they may be deemed inadmissible to be used in court. An experienced criminal defense attorney to file a motion to suppress evidence that has been illegally collected by police.
When gathering evidence during a criminal investigation, police are required to follow strict constitutional and statutory rules. If law enforcement breaks one of these rules and/or violates the suspect’s rights, then any illegally collected evidence can be thrown out of trial.
The following are the most common reasons a judge may suppress evidence in a criminal case:
- Unlawful search and seizure – The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires police to have a warrant or probable cause before searching a person’s body, home, vehicle, or personal property. If an officer conducts a search without a warrant or probable cause, a motion to suppress the evidence gathered in that search may be granted.
- Failure to read Miranda warning – You may be familiar with the Miranda rights, which begins with the phrase, “You have the right to remain silent.” Once a person is placed in custody and prior to any interrogation or questioning, the officer must read the individual this warning to protect him/her from making self-incriminating statements and give him/her the right to a lawyer present during questioning. If the person has not been read his rights, the statements made after arrest may not be admissible.
- Mistakes in the chain of custody – Referring to the proper documentation and protection of the evidence, from being collected by police to being presented in court. If an error occurs at any point in the chain of custody, the evidence may lose credibility and could be thrown out of trial.
A motion to suppress is a formal, written request to a judge to exclude specific evidence from trial. Once the motion is filed, a court hearing before a judge will be held and witnesses—including the arresting officer—will be called to testify. Once all witnesses provide their testimony, both the prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer have a chance to present an argument to the judge. If the judge determines that police violated the defendant’s rights, the court will exclude certain pieces of evidence from trial. Without key pieces of evidence for the prosecution to use against the defendant, this often means the case will be dismissed.