Police officers and investigators put a lot of effort into property gathering, transferring, analyzing and storing evidence. The information and physical evidence they collect are crucial to the criminal court process. Prosecutors have to present evidence to the courts that will convince a judge or a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that someone committed some kind of crime.
That is a steep legal standard to meet, and prosecutors often need every scrap of evidence that police officers gather to build a compelling case. Some individuals facing criminal charges can avoid a conviction by challenging the evidence the prosecutor wants to use in court. When is it possible to challenge evidence and prevent the prosecutor from including it in the case against you?
When the police obtained the evidence illegally
The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches. Law enforcement officers can conduct searches with warrants or permission, as well as when they have probable cause to suspect a crime.
Police officers sometimes violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights during an investigation. If you can prove that the police did something inappropriate or illegal while trying to gather evidence against you, then you can potentially ask the courts to exclude that evidence. The exclusionary rule stems from the Fourth Amendment and can help those who allege that there was a violation of their rights during an encounter with the police by keeping certain evidence out of court.
When the police misinterpret the evidence
Evidence of criminal activity is often not black and white. Instead, it requires careful analysis. Mistakes while digitally enhancing security camera footage could make the image look much different than it initially did. The contamination of physical evidence could make the evidence the prosecutor wants to present less reliable and authoritative than they claim it is.
Bringing in expert witnesses to challenge the validity of certain evidence or to present a different interpretation of that evidence could be a viable strategy for those trying to prove their innocence. In other cases, showing gaps in the chain of custody or in the paperwork for evidence could also help you raise questions about it.
Understanding the science currently accepted by the courts and legal precedent is very important for those hoping to build a criminal defense strategy based on challenging or excluding certain evidence from their trial.