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How can criminal defendants suppress evidence?

When New York residents are charged with a crime, evidence was likely collected at a traffic stop or a supposed crime scene. And while this evidence is being used to charge the accused, a defendant might have doubts regarding the reliability and legality of the recovery or admittance of the evidence being used. When this occurs, a criminal defendant might seek to suppress the evidence.

How can criminal defendants suppress evidence? In a criminal case, evidence used must be both relevant and competent, which means that it must be directly related to the criminal charges. Additionally, it means that the evidence must be collected and handled in accordance with the law.

The exclusionary rule, which is commonly used to suppress evidence, prevents the government from using most evidence that is gathered illegally. This is usually used when a defendant believes that evidence was obtained in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure. Police officers are required to obtain a valid search warrant and follow proper procedures to collect evidence. If these steps are not followed, this could trigger a Fourth Amendment violation.

Moreover, the "fruits of the poisonous tree" doctrine allows for otherwise permissible evidence to be excluded if it resulted from an illegal search and seizure or other constitutional violation. Other reasons a court might suppress evidence include the failure to read Miranda rights, as well as chain of custody errors made with the documentation and proper care of evidence from it seizure to its presentation at trial.

There are some exceptions to the exclusionary rule. This includes inevitable discovery, good faith and independent source. However, these exceptions need to be established after a criminal defendant has sought suppression. Even if an exception is possible, this does not mean a defendant cannot file a motion to suppress evidence.

Source: Criminal.findlaw.com, "How to Suppress Evidence," accessed March 14, 2016

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