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Looking at search and seizure issues in criminal defense, P.4

Last time, we began looking at the exclusionary rule and the protections it can offer to defendants in criminal cases where prosecutors attempt to introduce evidence which was obtained from or as a result of illegal searches and seizures. Again, the exclusionary rule allows a criminal defendant to file a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence from being introduced into the court record.

The impact of a successful motion to suppress in a criminal case depends on the charges involved, since prosecutors are always required to provide evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt each element of every alleged criminal offense. The impact also depends on what other evidence prosecutors have at their disposal. If the evidence a defendant is able to suppress is not critical to the government’s case, a motion to suppress may only have a minor impact. The impact can be significant when a defendant is successful in suppressing evidence which is key to the state’s case. 

There are several exceptions to the exclusionary rule, and it is necessary for a defendant to limit the applicability of such exceptions when seeking to exclude evidence. One exception to the exclusionary rule is when police found the evidence the defendant seeks to exclude by a source other than the illegal search. Another exception is when discovery of the evidence was inevitable. These exceptions can apply in cases where police have multiple leads leading to the same evidence.

The exclusionary rule also may not be applied in cases where the police conducted the illegal search in the good faith belief that they were following the law. Whether police failed to obtain a warrant when they should have, or police executed a warrant improperly, or when the warrant itself was invalid, the evidence obtained may not be excluded as long as law enforcement acted in good faith. Generally, it is difficult to prove that officers did not have good faith, though it can happen.

Navigating search and seizure issues in criminal cases is not an easy matter, and it is important to always work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure one receive solid advice and guidance in building a strong strategy and taking advantage of the protections available in the legal process. 

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