Things can appear very grim if you’re facing criminal charges and police have evidence against you.
It’s important to remember though, that under the U.S. Constitution and Kentucky law, you have rights protecting you against evidence collected illegally by police. Police must follow rules when questioning or arresting someone – regardless of the charges. Some police departments even go so far as to add extra rules of their own.
A good criminal defense lawyer will be able to study your case to see if there was a failure to follow those rules. If there is just one mistake, your arrest could be seen as a violation of your right to freedom and the evidence thrown out.
What Kinds of Evidence Can Be Suppressed?
It varies but, any evidence collected in violation of your rights can be thrown out, including:
- Blood alcohol level results
- Drugs found in your possession
- Statements made on a wiretap that was illegally installed
- Witness testimony
- Written statements
- Financial records
- Audio testimony
Having one or more of these pieces of evidence eliminated can mean the difference between conviction and dismissal.
What Are the Legal Grounds for Suppression of Evidence?
Although your criminal defense lawyer will know of many ways to attack evidence collected against you, the two most common strategies are based on illegal search and seizures and lack of a warrant.
As for illegal search and seizures, the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 10 of the Kentucky Constitution protect your freedom from searches unless police have a search warrant.
You are protected in most private places. So, besides your home, you are also free from illegal searches of your car, computer, phone, and hotel room, for example. Even if there is a warrant, Kentucky police are bound by strict rules about what they are allowed to do.
A valid search warrant must:
- Be filed in good faith with reliable information that shows probable cause, and
- Show specific places identified for the search and which items can be seized
Evidence obtained can be questioned if police went beyond the boundaries of the warrant, took evidence that wasn’t described in the warrant, or if there was no reasonable cause to issue the warrant in the first place.
How Does a Suppression Hearing Work?
Under Kentucky law, you and your criminal defense attorney can request a suppression hearing before the judge at just about any time before the case actually goes to trial. Keep in mind that the suppression hearing has nothing to do with deciding your guilt. Instead, it is all about determining if your rights were violated in the collection of evidence.
Once your lawyer files the motion for a suppression hearing, a date and time will be set. You, your attorney, the prosecutor, any witnesses (police officer or another person in question), and the judge will attend. There will be no jury present. However, what is said at the hearing is under oath and recorded.
The police officer will be questioned under oath by the prosecutor and your criminal defense attorney. Then, the judge will make the decision about whether or not the evidence can be presented at trial.
The burden is typically on the government to establish the admissibility of evidence; however, in some instances the burden may rest with the moving party or shift back to the defense upon minimal proof by the government. If the judge dismisses the evidence, you are in far better shape legally than before.
Benefits of a Suppression Hearing
There are definite advantages to filing a request for a suppression hearing. The obvious benefit is the chance of having evidence dismissed altogether.
Another advantage, though, is to get the police on the record before the actual trial. Any change from what is said at the suppression hearing can also lead to the dismissal of your charges.
Even if the judge doesn’t rule in your favor, you and your attorney have evidence from the recording of the hearing, which can be vital later in the actual trial.
How so? If the officer says anything at the trial differs from their statements during the suppression hearing, their testimony can be impeached.
The Key Takeaway
The suppression hearing is a powerful legal mechanism that can be used to defend against a conviction, but it’s just one of the numerous legal tactics your defense lawyer knows.
If you’re facing DUI or other criminal charges, make the smart move and consult with an attorney.