The use of evidence in criminal trials is heavily regulated. We all enjoy the right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. This is a very important right to have, especially in a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, the prosecutor bears the burden of producing evidence sufficient to convict the defendant. Without that evidence, the case could be dismissed. But not all evidence can be admitted to the case. Evidence that was obtained unlawfully cannot be used. It is not uncommon for a defendant's rights to be violated by the introduction of evidence that was not obtained legally. Defendants can defend that right by filing a motion to suppress evidence.
What Happens to the Evidence?
So, how does this affect the case? When evidence is suppressed, it is thrown out of the case. The evidence cannot be used against the defendant. Sometimes, the whole case will be dropped when certain pieces of evidence are suppressed. Without sufficient evidence, the court knows it is a waste of time to prosecute a defendant that it can't convict. Other times, suppressing the evidence won't result in the case being dropped, but it may limit the facts the prosecution has to present to the judge and thus could sway the conviction and sentencing.
Always Seek Legal Counsel First
You should never file a motion to suppress on your own. On that note, you should never represent yourself at trial. Consult with a skilled trial attorney about your options. It may not be advantageous to file a motion to suppress in your case. A judge may deny the motion, leaving the evidence on the table. An attorney can help you decide whether a motion to suppress would be effective in your case.
Too often, unskilled criminal defense attorneys without sufficient trial experience may not know the right time to file a motion to suppress. Hastily filing a motion to suppress can result in a waste of the client's time and money.
You can only suppress unlawfully obtained evidence. Determining whether the evidence was obtained lawfully is harder than you would think and takes a thorough review of all the facts. There are many rules on how evidence can be collected and used, but it is not uncommon for these rules to be violated. Here is a good example of how an officer can obtain evidence unlawfully:
A man is walking down the street. He has a backpack on his back. A police officer pulls over and offers the man a ride. The man agrees and gets in the back seat of the car. The officer puts his backpack is put in the trunk, and, legally, the man no longer has control or possession of the backpack. Later, while the man is still in the car, the officer searches his backpack and finds a gun, and the man does not have a concealed carry permit. The man is arrested then charged with carrying a concealed weapon. But the evidence, the gun, was seized unlawfully. The officer did not state any probable cause for searching the man's backpack, the officer did not obtain a search warrant, and the man had no access to the weapon at the time it was found, so the officer had no reason to believe his life was in danger. The man's attorney may be able to file a motion to suppress the evidence, as it was obtained during an unlawful search. This would result in the case being dropped because the gun is the key piece of evidence in the case.
If you are in a similar situation, you should speak with an attorney about your options. An experienced California criminal defense attorney with trial experience can evaluate your case and advise you of your rights and whether they have been violated. An attorney can also help you file a motion to suppress in your case, which could cause any unlawfully obtained evidence to be thrown out. In many cases, this can result in the entire case being dropped. In others, it may limit the availability of facts the prosecution has to back up his or her argument.
Do you have questions about criminal trials? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can help you face your charges and fight for your rights. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.