The U.S. Constitution prohibits law enforcement officers from conducting unlawful searches and seizures, and a violation of your constitutional rights means that any evidence retrieved during that violation could be inadmissible at trial. This is called the exclusionary rule. Criminal defense attorneys can filed a motion to suppress evidence to ensure that unlawfully obtained evidence cannot be used against you at trial. In Illinois, if a defendant can show he or she was doing nothing to justify a warrantless search and seizure, a court should grant the motion to suppress evidence.
Common Grounds For Seeking a Motion to Suppress Evidence
The most common reason for suppressing evidence is that police searched an individual or vehicle without a warrant or probable cause. In Illinois and across the United States, police must have probable cause in order to search a person without a warrant. Probable cause is based on an objective standard - the question is whether, under the totality of the circumstances, there is probable cause to believe that an individual has committed a crime or is otherwise in possession of contraband or other evidence? Absent an exception to the probable cause requirement, a court should grant the motion to suppress evidence. When a court grants a motion to suppress evidence, that evidence cannot be used as evidence at trial by the State. Without that oftentimes critical evidence, the prosecution will fail.
Another reason an attorney might seek to suppress evidence is because the police fail to advise a suspect of his or her Miranda rights. Anyone who watches TV is probably familiar with Miranda rights. Once the police place you into custody - for example, when you are arrested - they must inform you of the following rights: that you have a right to remain silent; that anything you say can be used against you in court; that you have the right to have an attorney present during any questioning; and that if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Police sometimes fail to tell suspects about these rights at the appropriate time. If a suspect is not made aware of his rights prior to being questioned by the police, any confessions or other statements made should not admissible in court. In instances where police have little other evidence to go on besides a confession, a violation of the Miranda rule can result in a case being dismissed.
Another reason why evidence might be suppressed is because there is an error in the chain of custody. If police confiscate a firearm or drugs from you, they are required to show that they have maintained proper care and control of it before trial to avoid any inference that the evidence was tampered with. This means that if you are charged with a drug crime, and the evidence seized by police gets lost or mislabeled while at a lab for testing, a court will almost certainly suppress the evidence because the chain of custody has been broken.
Your Right to a Lawyer
If you’re facing drug or weapons charges in Illinois, your freedom is at risk. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side who can recognize the important legal issues in your case, such as whether there is a viable motion to suppress evidence that was obtained as a result of an illegal search or seizure. You have the right to the lawyer of your choosing. For more information, contact Barney & Hourihane for a consultation.