Suppression of evidence in a criminal case has always been a controversial topic and legal remedy. An example would be suppression of a firearm found on a felon after he or she is stopped and searched. It is illegal and a criminal act for a felon to possess a firearm under state and federal law, and standing alone, is criminal and should result in a conviction.
The reason evidence is suppressed, such as this hypothetical firearm on a felon, is to make sure our constitutional safeguards are not violated. This often means a defendant—guilt notwithstanding—is not convicted. Suppression is a matter considered by every defense attorney and the topic of this blog post.1 This also shows how technical criminal law is and the need for skilled legal defense counsel when faced with a criminal allegation or charge (or indictment).
Perhaps the most common situation where a defense attorney moves to suppress evidence is where the police obtain this from searching a home. Under the Fourth Amendment, the police may not just choose to search someone’s home because they believe criminal activity is occurring. If they have “probable cause” to believe criminal activity is occurring in a home, they may seek to have a probable cause affidavit they prepare reviewed by a neutral judge or magistrate.2
Only if this neutral judge or magistrate finds probable cause, will a search warrant issue allowing the police to then search the home. What this means is if the police search the home without first obtaining a search warrant, any illegal activity or contraband may be suppressed, which effectively means it may not be used as evidence against the alleged defendant to secure a conviction. In most cases, this means the prosecution dismisses the case.
However, a police officer may lawfully search a home and not violate the Fourth Amendment, if he or she has “exigent circumstances”. These are logical and common sense. So for instance, if a police officer hears someone screaming in pain and enters a home to find a person battering the person screaming, this is an “exigent circumstance” that allows a warrantless search.
Ultimately, criminal law has a number of constitutional protections, which if violated, even unintentionally, may provide a defense or basis for the case to be dismissed. For this reason, it is important to select skilled defense counsel who understands the legal limits on police officers to afford all of us constitutional protections. Filing such motions, such as a Motion to Suppress, is the burden of defense counsel. Where this does timely occur, the evidence the case may be suppressed and the matter dismissed.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle criminal defense cases throughout the State of Indiana. This blog post is written for general educational purposes. This blog is not a solicitation for services or specific legal advice. It is an advertisement.
- Suppression under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is a complex legal and factual analysis with different standards, such as if a person is stopped in a routine traffic stop versus his or her home is searched. This blog addresses suppression in or around someone’s home.
- Malone v. State, 882 N.E.2d 784 (Ind.Ct.App.2008).