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Can a defense attorney challenge the use of evidence at trial?

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Defense attorneys help people understand the charges against them. They assist with the development of a defense strategy and help people use their rights when fighting criminal charges brought by the state.

Every criminal case is different from the next, and lawyers may propose a variety of different defense strategies depending on the charges someone faces and the evidence that the state has. Sometimes, a lawyer suggests challenging the use of certain evidence and seeking to exclude it from criminal proceedings.

When does an attorney have the option of preventing the presentation of certain criminal evidence?

When police officers violated the law

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures of personal property by government agents. Police officers typically need warrants or permission to search private property unless they have probable cause. However, they often try to bend the rules or may break them and hope that no one raises questions later.

If a defense attorney can convince a judge presiding over a criminal trial that police officers violated the law or the civil rights of a defendant, they could potentially negotiate the exclusion of certain evidence from the criminal case. The exclusionary rule prevents state prosecutors from relying on evidence gathered through misconduct or a violation of someone’s civil rights.

When the evidence may be unreliable

In some cases, a lawyer could question the use of certain evidence because of what happened after a search. When there are chain of custody issues, there may not be proper records of who accessed the evidence and what they did with it. For physical evidence such as DNA or fingerprints to be authoritative, police officers must follow certain standards when collecting, transporting, analyzing and storing that evidence.

Gaps in the chain of custody documents or other deviations from best practices could lead to questions about the accuracy of the evidence or the possibility of contamination. Sometimes, lawyers can convince the courts that the evidence is not reliable and could potentially excluded from inclusion during the trial or undermine its influence by raising questions about its accuracy.

Preventing the use of certain evidence is only one of many potentially viable criminal defense strategies that could work for those accused of breaking the law. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to learn more.