Not all evidence is admissible in a courtroom. Mistakes can be made throughout police investigations, and illegally obtained evidence can be tossed.
In a suppression hearing, a judge will decide if evidence should be suppressed. What kind of evidence is inadmissible and why? Below, we provide an overview of the reasons evidence can be suppressed in a trial.
Evidence was illegally obtained
Unless officers have a warrant or probable cause to conduct a search, a person does not have to consent to any searches or seizures. If the officers have a warrant to conduct a search, they are not permitted to go beyond the scope of the warrant. For example, if officers have a warrant to search a suspect’s home and they also search the car in the driveway, they would have acted outside the warrant’s scope. Additionally, a court may suppress evidence that is obtained if a person provided consent under duress or coercion.
The suspect was not informed of their Miranda rights
Law enforcement is legally required to read a person their rights if they are in custody or interrogated. They must be informed of things like their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney. If a person is not read their rights or they were read incorrectly, a judge may suppress statements that a suspect elicited following the Miranda error.
Chain of custody mistakes
Evidence that was improperly collected or preserved can be suppressed. The O.J. Simpson trial is a prime example of this type of error. Erroneous evidence collection and preservation procedures led to countless pieces of suppressed evidence. Some of the evidence was labeled incorrectly, completely unlabeled or lacked collection documentation. If a judge has concerns regarding the chain of custody, they may rule that the evidence should be suppressed and omitted from the trial.
There are exceptions to evidence suppression. If evidence falls under an exception, it is possible that it will be admissible in court. Nevertheless, seasoned defense attorneys can fight for evidence to ensure that their clients receive a fair trial and don’t fall victim to law enforcement wrongdoings.