Long before a federal case goes to trial, the attorneys on both sides will engage in a lot of legal battles over everything from the charges that are levied to the jurors that are selected to hear the case.
One of those battles may play out in what is known as a suppression hearing.
What’s a suppression hearing?
If you’ve ever heard anybody talk about evidence being “thrown out of court,” what they really mean is that the evidence was “suppressed” or excluded from use in the trial for one reason or another.
In federal cases, Rule 41(h) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure allows for these kinds of motions. It’s important to understand, however, that you need to have some sort of legal grounds to ask the court to exclude any evidence the prosecution wants to use.
Commonly, exclusions are requested because:
- The evidence was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s rule against unlawful search and seizure. For example, this could happen if the police barged into your home without a warrant, consent or a valid reason and discovered the evidence against you.
- There were errors with the chain of custody. Evidence can be damaged, altered or corrupted when left in the wrong hands, so preserving a record of the chain of custody is vital to its credibility. For example, if a victim’s clothing goes missing before it can be tested for DNA, it may be impossible to tell if the DNA left on that clothing was contaminated – even if the clothing is later recovered.
- The evidence was obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Your right against self-incrimination is very important. If your request for an attorney was ignored, you weren’t read your Miranda rights prior to interrogation or you were coerced into a confession, the evidence may be suppressed.
When you’re facing federal criminal charges, don’t assume that the deck is stacked against you. Experienced legal guidance can help you find defense options you probably didn’t even realize were there.