If you have been charged with a criminal offense it means that the State will try and use evidence gathered during a police investigation against you if your case goes to trial. Your criminal defense attorney may be able to prevent that evidence from being introduced at trial. Every criminal prosecution involves a unique set of facts and circumstances; however, a Murfreesboro criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains when and how it may be possible to prevent evidence from being used against you at trial in a criminal prosecution.
Criminal Prosecution Basics
The period after an arrest and before the trial is referred to as the pre-trial phase of a criminal prosecution. The State has usually already gathered evidence that it intends to use against you to prove your guilt. The defense, on the other hand, will be reviewing and analyzing that evidence both to decide how to mount a defense and to determine if any of the evidence should be excluded or suppressed.
What Is a Motion to Exclude?
In the United States, defendants have several rights guaranteed to them in the U.S. Constitution. If a defendant’s rights were violated, evidence that is subsequently gathered may not be admissible in court. We also have criminal procedures that must be followed for evidence to be admissible in court. If those procedures were not following during the gathering of evidence, that evidence may not be admissible at trial. A Motion to Exclude (also referred to as a Motion to Suppress) is a motion that is filed during the pre-trial phase of the case which asks the court to exclude specific evidence from the trial based on the legal reasons outlined in the motion.
What Evidence Might Be Excluded?
Evidence may be excluded for a wide range of legal reasons; however, among the most common reasons for the exclusion of evidence are:
- Chain of custody violation – not only must evidence be obtained legally, but it must also be handled properly, according to strict procedures, after it is seized. This is referred to as the “chain of custody.” For example, if blood evidence was not properly preserved or there is a time period during which a piece of evidence is unaccounted for, the evidence is potentially tainted and/or could have been tampered with by just about anyone. As such, it should not be allowed to be introduced at trial.
- Illegally obtained statements – most people are familiar with your Miranda Rights. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law etc.” What people often do not understand is the remedy for not being read your rights. If the police never asked you any questions, it does not matter if they failed to read you your rights. If, however, you were interrogated, or even just asked a few seemingly harmless questions, without being read your rights, anything you said in response may be inadmissible at trial.
- Illegally obtained evidence – this typically refers to evidence obtained during an illegal search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unlawful searches and seizures. Typically, this means that the police must first obtain a warrant based on probable cause before conducting a search; however, there are exceptions to the warrant requirement. If a judge determines that a search was conducted illegally, any evidence seized during that search may be inadmissible pursuant to the “Exclusionary Rule.”
If a Motion to Exclude is filed in your case, a hearing will typically be set at which time the respective sides argue their positions. At the end, the judge will either grant or deny the motion. If the motion is granted, the evidence referenced in the motion will not be allowed to be introduced and used against you at the trial.
Contact a Murfreesboro Criminal Lawyer
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Tennessee, consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options. In Tennessee contact a Murfreesboro criminal lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby to discuss your legal options. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your free appointment.