If you are currently facing criminal charges in the State of Tennessee, you are undoubtedly worried about the outcome of your case and the possibility of a conviction. In order to avoid a conviction, you need to have an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney on your side and a winning defense strategy. The defense strategy your attorney decides to use will depend on a wide variety of factors, including the manner in which the police conducted the investigation that led to your arrest. Police officers, prosecutors, and others involved in the prosecution of a case are human, and they do make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are relatively harmless; however, other times they directly impact the outcome of a case. Fortunately, there is something your attorney can do when a mistake was made on the part of the State. Criminal attorneys can try and exclude evidence when that evidence was obtained illegally, or when there is another problem with the admissibility of the evidence in your case.
Common Reasons to Exclude Evidence
Evidence in a criminal case comes in many forms and is collected or obtained in a wide variety of ways. That also means there are a wide variety of ways in which a mistake can be made along the way. Because of the repercussions of a conviction, the State has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To ensure that a defendant is not wrongfully convicted, there are numerous rules in place that address things such as how evidence may be obtained and how that evidence must be handled throughout the prosecution of the case. If any of those rules are violated, the evidence may be excluded. Some common ways in which the State might violate the rules of evidence include:
- Evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure (for example, a search conducted without a warrant that does not qualify for an exception to the warrant requirement)
- A confession that was coerced
- Statements made by a defendant after the defendant asked for an attorney and one was not provided
- Evidence for which the “chain of custody” was broken, meaning it was not continuously accounted for from the time it was obtained until the time of the trial.
- Hearsay evidence — “an out-of-court statement introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein.” Basically, a witness cannot testify to something someone else said, except under certain circumstances.
How Is Evidence Excluded?
One of the primary jobs of a criminal defense attorney is to make sure the prosecuting attorney does his/her job correctly. Part of that responsibility includes making sure that evidence is not admitted at trial that should not be. As a general rule, the rules of discovery require the prosecuting attorney to provide the defendant with all of the evidence the State intends to use against the defendant at trial ahead of time. Your attorney, therefore, will be able to review all the evidence against you well ahead of trial. If your attorney believes there is a problem with the admissibility of any of the evidence, your attorney can challenge that evidence by filing a pre-trial motion to exclude. The motion will include the legal basis on which your attorney believes the evidence should be excluded from trial. The State will usually file a response to the motion. Sometimes, the judge will rule on the matter based solely on the written arguments by both sides; however, it is also common for the judge to set the matter for a hearing. At the hearing, your attorney and the prosecuting attorney will both make their arguments for, and against, excluding the evidence. The judge will then make a decision about the admissibility of the evidence in question. If the judge rules in your favor, it means the evidence cannot be used against you at trial. Sometimes, the evidence is crucial to the State’s case against you, meaning the charges are dropped after the judge rules to exclude the evidence.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.
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