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Suppression of Evidence

Police misconduct that is associated with the investigation of a crime, whether intentional misconduct or unintentional misconduct, could lead to the suppression of evidence, or the discrediting of evidence.

To suppress evidence means to render the evidence inadmissible in a criminal proceeding. To discredit evidence means to call into question the legitimacy, reliability, or relevancy of the evidence. Sometimes evidence may be suppressed for a limited purpose in a criminal proceeding, such as using evidence that is otherwise suppressed only if the defendant testifies, etc.

Misconduct by police officers has different forms: 1) violations of the defendant's legal rights; 2) evidence of officer's prior misconduct in a prior criminal case that affects the credibility of the officer's testimony in the defendant's current case; and 3) Entrapment [Police misconduct that promotes criminal activity and serves as an affirmative defense to the defendant's otherwise criminal conduct].

Violation of Defendant's Rights: When an officer commits misconduct by violating the defendant's rights, the evidence might be suppressed. The evidence that is suppressed can include confessions, physical evidence, medical reports, scientific reports, statements and observations of witnesses, and more. Examples of the basis for suppression motions based on a violation of the defendant rights include:

  • Evidence that is suppressed as it was obtained in violation of the defendant's right against unreasonable search or seizure and without Probable Cause (Fourth Amendment violations) [Note: Cases where there is a warrant obtained by police for search and seizure may still lead to the suppression of evidence if the warrant was obtained without probable cause or based on unreliable informants]. 

  • Evidence that is suppressed because the defendant's right to remain silent was not observed by law enforcement officers after the defendant invoked his right to remain silent (Fifth Amendment violations [Miranda Rights Violations])

  • Evidence that is suppressed because it was obtained in violation of the defendant's right to have an attorney present during all critical stages of the criminal proceedings (Sixth Amendment violations)

  • Evidence that is suppressed because the manner in which the evidence was collected violated the defendant's right to Due Process or Equal Protection of the laws (Due Process violations). For example, unfair line-ups or show-ups where defendant is presented differently than other"suspects," and more.

Note: Evidence that is obtain in violation of the defendant's rights is not necessarily suppressed if that evidence would have eventually and likely been found through an alternate and legal source (Inevitable discovery Rule).

Police Misconduct in Prior Criminal Cases: Prejudice or misconduct of officers in prior criminal cases can lead to suppression of evidence in the defendant's current case (or taint the prosecutor's evidence): Example: showing that the investigating officers in the defendant's criminal case have prior disciplinary actions for misconduct concerning untruthfulness or prejudice towards a class of persons so as to discredit those offices in the defendant's current criminal case.

Note: The prior misconduct of officers does not have to be related to his or her law enforcement employment in order for the prosecutor's evidence against the defendant to be tainted. For example, if the investigating officer is alleged to have committed tax evasion, that officer's credibility in reporting the facts in the defendant's case could be tainted.

Entrapment: Improper police procedure that amounts to promoting a crime where the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime could lead to tainted evidence. Entrapment is an affirmative defense, which means that the defendant admits that he or she committed the act that lead to criminal charges, but that he or she is nevertheless not guilty because he or she only committed the crime after the police promoted the crime. Evidence that the defendant was entrapped is not rendered suppressed (inadmissible), but rather, evidence of the defendant's culpability is tainted.

 

Note: Entrapment is most commonly found when police conduct prostitution stings, drug transaction, or money theft transactions. More information can be found at Entrapment Defense.

Proof of Officer Misconduct: The defendant may have an uphill battle when he or she tries to suppress evidence based on a violation of the defendant's rights if the defendant has no corroborating evidence of the officer's misconduct. This is due to the fact that officer testimony is usually treated as more credible and reliable than defendant testimony (at least by the judges rendering decisions on the admissibility of evidence and assuming all things otherwise being equal).

In sum, every criminal case is different and whether police misconduct, intentional or unintentional, applies in a criminal case to promote the suppression of evidence, or taint the prosecutor's evidence against the defendant, depends on many factors. The laws that support suppression of evidence usually turns on the nuances in the facts particular to the defendant's criminal case.

If you or a loved one is charged with a criminal offense in California, call our criminal defense attorney for a free consultation. Call today!

 

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