You are sitting in court, looking at your family in the stands, knowing you might not be going home to them tonight. You probably won’t be going back for a few years.
The prosecution is laying it on thick, telling the judge how you are a danger to society and corrupting innocent young people. They pull out the evidence against you, a bag of white powder found in your home — not a small bag, a big bag. Ten minutes later, they sit down and tidy their papers. It’s job done as far as they are concerned. The evidence is indisputable, and you are going to jail.
Except this didn’t happen. Your defense attorney made sure it didn’t. They filed beforehand to have the evidence suppressed, and the judge agreed. As far as the law is concerned, there is no big bag of white powder.
A judge may suppress evidence for several reasons:
- Unlawful search and seizure: The Fourth Amendment protects you from being stopped and searched by the police without cause. It also prevents them from entering your house without valid grounds or permission. If they did not follow correct procedures, the judge might refuse to admit the evidence.
- Police did not read you the Miranda rights: If this the case, you might be able to have anything you said at the time suppressed as evidence.
- Errors in the chain of custody: When the police collect evidence, they cannot just throw it into the boss’s drawer like on the TV shows. Evidence must be correctly stored and its history noted down, from finding it to its appearance in court. There needs to be a clear record of where it was at each point in time and who had access to it.
If you face criminal charges, an experienced criminal defense attorney will look for ways to dismiss or reduce the charges and protect your future.