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Looking at the legal strategy of suppression of evidence

In our last couple posts, we spoke briefly about a recent Supreme Court case which held that an officer’s reasonable mistake of law does not destroy probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Here we want to look at one possible strategy in criminal defense when it is determined that an officer’s mistake of law, or fact for that matter, was unreasonable and therefore resulted in evidence being illegally obtained.

Suppression of evidence is a common legal strategy in cases involving charges of DWI and drug possession or trafficking, though it is not limited to such cases. The basic idea being suppression of evidence is that prosecutors should not be able to benefit from evidence which an officer illegally obtained. 

In order to suppress evidence from trial, the defendant must make a motion and support the motion with sound legal argument. So, to be clear, this isn’t something the judge will do for you—you need to have an experienced advocate by your side. The basic goal is to demonstrate that the evidence was obtained either directly because of a constitutional violation or as a result of a constitutional violation.

There are some important exceptions to the exclusionary rule. These include: cases where the evidence would have eventually been discovered anyway by some legal means; cases where officers made a good faith mistake during a search; and cases where the evidence would have been discovered by means of an independent source. In arguing for a motion to suppress, it is important to definitively rule out such possibilities.

Obtaining the suppression of incriminating evidence is no small thing. In some cases, it can all but destroy prosecution’s case. In other cases it may provide a more modest benefit to the defendant. In any case, it is important to work with a skilled attorney to ensure one’s rights and interests are protected. 

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