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What police misconduct might mean for the state’s evidence

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2024 | Criminal Defense

An arrest does not automatically lead to criminal consequences. The state needs to prove that someone actually broke the law. That process typically involves formal arraignment or indictment, followed by a trial if the defendant pleads guilty.

Prosecutors bringing criminal charges against individuals in Virginia have to meet a certain standard. They need evidence that proves to a judge and jury beyond a reasonable doubt that someone broke the law. They may need financial records, physical evidence, witness statements or other compelling evidence to connect someone to a criminal incident.

It is the job of police officers to gather the evidence that eventually makes up the basis of the state’s case against someone. Sometimes, overzealous police officers may break the law or infringe on someone’s rights. If a defendant believes that police officers broke the law or violated their rights, what might that mean for the state’s case against them?

Violations can render evidence useless

There are many rules and laws restricting the conduct of police officers. They must comply with state and federal laws and follow established best practices for law enforcement. For example, there are restrictions on when and how police officers conduct searches and the scenarios in which they can question people.

If police officers break the law or violate someone’s civil rights during an investigation, that misconduct could have a negative impact on the prosecutor’s case. The exclusionary rule allows defense attorneys to challenge the use of evidence that police officers obtained through illegal activity or the violations of someone’s civil rights.

Questioning someone without informing them of their Miranda rights or searching without a warrant or probable cause might lead to the exclusion of certain evidence from criminal proceedings. Sometimes, the exclusion of specific evidence can make it much easier to defend against pending charges. In other cases, an attorney successfully excluding certain evidence might lead to the prosecutor dismissing the charges against a defendant.

Defendants typically benefit from going over the state’s evidence with an attorney before deciding how to respond to their pending charges. Learning more about the rules that govern evidence can make a big difference for someone hoping to successfully defend against pending criminal charges in Virginia.


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