Facing criminal charges can be frightening and confusing. You may already feel the odds are stacked against you as you watch evidence mounting. Police may even try to convince you there is no point in trying to defend yourself because they have enough proof to convict you.
You should know that there is always a point to building a strong defense strategy, even if the evidence seems overwhelming. That is because there exists the chance that key pieces of evidence will not pass the rules of admissibility in a court of law. A skilled and experienced defense attorney will recognize if police violated your rights during the collection of any incriminating evidence.
Case law and the U.S. Constitution protect your civil rights during every aspect of a criminal proceeding, including the collection of evidence. If New Jersey police unlawfully seize evidence or garner a confession from you, a judge may rule to exclude that evidence from your criminal trial. This means a jury will never know about it, and prosecutors may not use it against you.
However, in order for this to happen, your attorney must file a motion to suppress the evidence. A judge will then examine the evidence and the circumstances related to its collection before ruling whether to allow it in the trial or exclude it. Some factors that may cause a judge to exclude evidence include the following:
- Police did not obtain your permission or a warrant before searching you, your vehicle or your residence where they discovered evidence.
- A judge issued a search warrant based on false information police provided.
- After your arrest, police did not read you your Miranda warning before questioning you to obtain a confession or incriminating information.
- Police did not protect the chain of custody of evidence they took from you.
The chain of custody ensures that any evidence presented during your trial received careful documentation and protection to avoid contamination, mix-ups or other factors that would invalidate its credibility.
Exceptions to the exclusion rules
There are some times when a judge may admit evidence police obtain through illegal means. For example, an officer may have discovered evidence without a warrant, but a judge may rule that investigators would have eventually found the evidence through legal methods. An officer may search your home believing he or she has a valid warrant, but the warrant may contain legal errors that render it invalid. A judge may rule that the good faith of the officer prevents you from having that evidence excluded.
These examples barely scratch the surface. As you can see, the rules for suppressing evidence are complex and require a thorough knowledge of criminal proceedings and extensive experience in evidentiary law. Prosecutors are building their case on the evidence against you. You have every right to build a solid defense with an experienced attorney.