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What does it mean to get evidence suppressed in a criminal case?

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

We’ve talked here before about why it’s crucial for law enforcement to maintain the “chain of custody” for evidence they have that someone allegedly committed a crime. That’s because if the location of evidence or the person possessing it is unaccounted for at any point between the time it’s obtained and the time it’s presented in a case, it could be tampered with and therefore can’t legally be used to incriminate a defendant.

Chain of custody errors are just one reason why you might be able to get evidence “suppressed” or tossed out in your case. Illegal searches and seizures are another.

When is a search or seizure illegal?

Police typically need to have your permission or a warrant to search a person’s residence. If they have a warrant, that warrant must specify what areas can be searched and what kinds of potential evidence can be seized. Some warrants are more specific than others. 

There are exceptions. For example, police can enter a premises without permission or a warrant if they believe a crime is being committed. They can also seize evidence “in plain sight,” even if it’s not in an area covered under the warrant. 

Anything obtained in an illegal search and/or seizure is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree,” in legal jargon. That means it can’t be used against someone – nor can any information obtained from it be used. That “poisonous tree” can have a lot of branches that lead them to build a case that ultimately will fall apart if none of the evidence can be used.

You can’t be expected to know whether law enforcement officers did everything “by the book” before, during and after your arrest. That’s just one reason that having experienced legal guidance is crucial to protecting your rights if they’ve been violated.