Why an illegal search matters to a criminal defendant’s case

On Behalf of | Jul 9, 2024 | Criminal Law |

There are many ways that people develop criminal defense strategies. Some people bring in experts to analyze the state’s evidence and undermine the prosecution’s case. A forensic accountant could prove that embezzled funds wound up in someone else’s offshore account, for example.

Some people use an affirmative defense strategy in which they prove that unusual circumstances made their actions technically legal. They claim to have acted in self-defense or that they were under duress at the time of an incident.

Other times, the defense strategy someone employs begins with the elimination of certain evidence. A defense attorney can sometimes prevent the prosecutor from presenting certain types of evidence in court during a trial. Defendants who believe that police officers may have broken the law or violated their rights may went to communicate that to their defense attorneys while putting together a strategy.

Illegally-obtained evidence could be useless

People have rights when dealing with agents of the state, such as police officers. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. Police officers cannot violate the Fourth Amendment rights of suspects without consequences.

For example, if a police officer conducts a warrantless search of someone’s vehicle without their permission or probable cause, whatever they find during that search may be inadmissible in court. Under the exclusionary rule, defense teams can eliminate the use of evidence obtained illegally or through a violation of someone’s rights.

Questioning conducted without a proper Miranda warning and illegal searches could trigger the exclusionary rule. A defense attorney has to establish that the situation meets the necessary standard to exclude evidence from criminal proceedings.

In some cases, eliminating certain evidence could make all the difference for a defense strategy. If an illegal search of a vehicle turned up drugs, for example, suppressing that evidence might lead to the state dismissing pending charges. Other times, the elimination of certain evidence makes it easier to fight the charges based on what evidence the state still has available.

Recognizing and documenting violations of personal rights or the law could help those facing criminal charges, including drug charges. Defendants who challenge the exclusion of certain evidence may have an easier time avoiding a criminal conviction.