How Bad Evidence Stays Out of Court
In this post I want to talk about the public’s perception of “loopholes” in the law. Normally you’ll hear someone in a movie or TV show say… “my lawyer got me off.” Things like this make people look down on the legal system even more than the public already does. What are these loopholes and how exactly does a lawyer get someone off. The way this is done in the law is through our U.S. Constitution and the Texas Constitution. Ask any lawyer who works in criminal law about the Exclusionary Rule.
What is the Exclusionary Rule?
The Exclusionary Rule is related to the Fourth Amendment and your right to be free from illegal searches and seizures. The Exclusionary Rule doesn’t appear anywhere in the Constitution. I know what you’re thinking… pick your jaw up off the floor. But where does it come from? The Exclusionary Rule comes from Judges’ interpretation of the law, over time.
The Exclusionary Rule has been used to keep evidence out of Court, when that evidence was obtained illegally by the police. The basic idea behind it is this – Judges and the legal system don’t want to reward the bad behavior of the police. If the police gathered evidence against you, in violation of your State and/or Federal Constitutional rights, your attorney can file a Motion to Suppress the evidence against you. If the Judge rules in your favor, the evidence that was illegally obtained by police will not be admitted into Court against you, for any purpose.
What is a Motion to Suppress?
A Motion to Suppress is a document which asks the Court to make a ruling on whether the evidence obtained by police was legally or illegally obtained. If the Judge rules in favor that it was illegally obtained, then the Prosecutor can’t use that against you. If the Judge rules that it was legally obtained, it may be used against you later on at trial. However, the Motion to Suppress isn’t generally an all or nothing request. The Judge may throw out some evidence but keep others.
Why do we keep this system? How does it affect your case?
Well, the bottom line is that it just makes sense. As a society we don’t want to reward the bad behavior of police officers. If police are trained in the law and presumed to know the law then they should be held to a standard where they follow the law as well. Violating Constitutional rights for a quick arrest, and later on, an easy conviction, is no way to instill trust in the communities that officers protect. So next time you hear someone say that their lawyer found a loophole or that “their lawyer got them off,” you know that they’re really talking about the Exclusionary Rule. This is how bad evidence stays out of Court.
The benefit to your case comes in during plea bargaining with the prosecutor and during your trial. If major piece of the evidence against you are inadmissible in Court, the case against you will weaken tremendously! This means that your case may be dismissed entirely, some of the charges against you will be dismissed, or you will get a much better plea offer than you had before.