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When can evidence be suppressed in a criminal trial?

Most people in New York expect to one day find themselves facing criminal accusations, but unfortunately it happens, even to innocent individuals. Hearing the prosecution's case against you can be frightening and confusing, especially when the prosecution proffers what may seem to be damaging evidence. However, there are ways to get wrongful evidence suppressed; that is, thrown out so it cannot be used against you.

Evidence may be suppressed if there has been a violation of your constitutional rights. First of all, let's consider an unlawful search and seizure, which violates the Fourth Amendment. An unlawful search and seizure can take place during a traffic stop or if the police are attempting to search your residence. While there are some important exceptions, in general, police need probable cause or a valid search or arrest warrant in order to perform a search. Evidence garnered in an unlawful search and seizure cannot, usually, be used against you.

Evidence may also be suppressed if the police failed to read you your Miranda rights. If the police have someone in their custody and they want to question that individual, they first need to inform the individual that he or she has the right to legal representation and anything he or she says could be used against him or her in court. If an officer fails to read someone his or her Miranda rights, and then interrogates the person, that person's statements generally can't be admitted as evidence.

Finally, let's discuss chain of custody errors. These involve the proper documentation and care of items that may be admitted as evidence. It starts from the moment the evidence is seized by officers all the way to admitting it as evidence at a trial. If the evidence is not properly documented and cared for along the way (that is, the chain is broken,) it may not be credible and may not be admissible.

Suppressing evidence can be a crucial part of a person's criminal defense. However, recognizing whether and when to challenge evidence takes legal skill and knowledge. This post, while informative, cannot determine how the law will apply to the facts of your situation or promise any particular result in a criminal trial. Fortunately, defendants can choose to have an attorney by their side representing their interests throughout the criminal trial process.

Source: FindLaw, "How to Suppress Evidence," accessed Sept. 4, 2016

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