What Makes Evidence Inadmissible?Published on August 21, 2019
In the United States, strict rules govern what evidence can be used in a trial. These restrictions apply equally to prosecutors and to the defense, and much of their time is spent fighting over what constitutes inadmissible evidence or admissible evidence. The judge decides what evidence may be admitted. Suffice it to say, criminal cases are often won and lost based on these evidentiary issues. So it’s essential that you have a criminal defense lawyer who is knowledgeable about the law of evidence, and will be able to use these rules in your favor.
At Spolin Law P.C., one of the most successful defense strategies we employ is the suppression of the prosecutor’s evidence. After essential evidence has been removed from the case, the prosecutor may not be in a position to prove your guilt. In some cases, the judge will even agree to dismiss the charges before your trial even starts. If you’ve been charged with a crime, you should retain a lawyer as soon as possible.
A Prosecutor Cannot Use Evidence That Was Obtained in Violation of Your Rights
In a criminal proceeding, the admission of evidence is governed by the rules of evidence, just like in a civil trial. For example, hearsay, or out-of-court statements used to prove the truth of the matter asserted, is not admissible unless it meets one of the limited exceptions to this rule. But in a criminal proceeding, the most important rules on the admission of evidence come from the United States Constitution. A criminal defense attorney can ask the judge to suppress any evidence that was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights.
Your lawyer can make a motion to suppress the evidence in the following scenarios:
You were subjected to an unreasonable search.
The police need your consent or a warrant if they want to enter your home and search for evidence. The warrant requirement has exceptions under limited emergency circumstances, such as when the police believe someone is in danger inside your home, they have reason to believe evidence is being destroyed, or they are in hot pursuit of a suspect. If the police searched your home without your consent, a warrant, or an emergency justifying their warrantless entry, your lawyer could likely suppress any evidence they obtained during the search.
The police violated the plain sight rule.
When the police have a warrant for your arrest, they may enter your home by force and apprehend you. But this warrant does not necessarily allow them to search for evidence. When the warrant only authorizes an arrest, the police can only seize evidence that is in plain sight. They cannot open your closet or drawers to look for drugs or weapons, for example. But if drugs or weapons are clearly visible, this evidence may be seized and used against you.
The police pulled you over for no reason.
When you’re driving a car, the police cannot pull you over just because they have a hunch that you might be doing something illegal. They actually have to see you breaking the law. Or you, your car, or your license plate must match the description of someone they have reason to believe has broken the law. Under cross-examination, police officers are often unable to convincingly articulate the facts that gave them a good reason for pulling you over. In this case, the judge may order the suppression of all evidence obtained as a result of this unlawful traffic stop.
The police lacked probable cause to arrest you.
In order to lawfully arrest you, the police need to have probable cause to believe that you are guilty of a crime. Sometimes, the arresting officer is unable to convincingly or coherently explain to the court why they decided to arrest you. Or your lawyer can show that the officer’s reasons did not meet the normal threshold of probable cause. In this case, the judge may order the suppression of any evidence obtained as a result of your arrest.
Your confession was coerced.
When the police arrest you, or place you in a position in which a reasonable person would assume they are under arrest, they must inform you of your right to remain silent and your right to a lawyer. United States law prohibits the police from obtaining coerced confessions and statements from criminal suspects, and the Supreme Court has ruled that any confession you make without being aware of your rights is by nature coercive. So if the police question you without informing you of your rights, or threaten physical violence against you in order to obtain your confession, this evidence may be suppressed.
Contact Spolin Law, P.C. for Help Today
The sooner your criminal defense lawyer begins working on your case, the better. It’s important for you to have an experienced attorney by your side to object to the prosecution’s evidence early in the case, because if the motion to suppress is successful, you may be able to have the charges dismissed without going through the expense and hassle of a trial. And even if the court rules against you on the motion to suppress, the issue will be preserved for a possible appeal later on.
With Reduced CA Sentences, Comes New Plea DealsPublished on August 7, 2019
Most criminal cases end when the defendant agrees to a plea deal offered by the prosecutor – but doing so is often not in their best interest. In California, some prosecutors are even inserting provisions into plea deals that would keep the defendant from benefiting from future changes in the law that might benefit them. For example, you might have to sign away any possibility of appealing the length of your sentence if the State of California decides to reduce the sentence length of the crime for which you were convicted.
This controversial practice shows how important it is to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer by your side to negotiate a beneficial plea deal for you – or better yet, to beat your charges. Sometimes, a plea deal is the best outcome you can hope for. But in your case, a lawyer may be able to successfully advocate for your acquittal or a dismissal of the charges. You have rights in the criminal justice process, including the right to a lawyer to fight on your behalf.
San Diego Prosecutors Got Defendants to Sign Away Their Right to Challenge Their Sentence
In San Diego County, the prosecutor’s office has convinced several defendants to sign plea deals that make it impossible for them to benefit from new court rulings or legislation. This is an apparent backlash against efforts in Sacramento to do away with mandatory sentences and to change the definitions of some crimes. For example, last year, the California legislature passed a law that made it harder to convict people of felony murder. The law also had retroactive effects, meaning that people currently serving time for felony murder might be eligible for early release.
Prosecutors are trying to insulate defendants from benefiting from these legal changes, and they have the apparent authority to do it. In the 2013 case of Doe v. Harris, the California Supreme Court stated that the terms or consequences of a plea agreement, like any contract, may be altered by future changes in the law. But the court also stated that defendants and prosecutors could possibly agree to fix the terms of a plea bargain so that future changes in the law would not affect the substance of the deal.
This court decision resulted from a defendant’s attempt to shield himself from a change in the law that hurt his case. He plead guilty to a sex crime in the 90s, well aware that he would be placed on the sex offender registry, which was only accessible by law enforcement at the time. But then the law changed, and the registry became public. The offender sued the state of California for breach of contract, and he lost because there was no implicit or explicit promise in his plea deal that the terms of his registration as a sex offender would remain fixed.
The court suggested, however, that he might have been able to negotiate a provision that would have prevented changes in the law to affect his plea agreement. Ironically, what was meant as a way for defendants to avoid the bad consequences of changes in the law is now preventing them from taking advantage of beneficial changes in the law. Under the authority of Doe, prosecutors are able to fix the terms of plea deal so that you cannot get out of your sentence, even if the legislature decides to shorten it retroactively.
Fortunately, the California legislature may specifically prohibit this type of plea deal. State Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat from South Los Angeles, has introduced Assembly Bill 1618, which would put the following into law:
“a provision of a plea bargain that requires a defendant to generally waive future potential benefits of legislative enactments, initiatives, judicial appellate decisions, or other changes in the law that may retroactively apply after the date of the plea is void as against public policy.”
The bill has passed several committees and is due for a vote in coming weeks.
Contact a Los Angeles Appeals Lawyer for Help Today
Negotiating a good plea deal may be the best outcome you can hope for in some cases. For example, if the prosecutor has strong and admissible evidence that points to your guilt, it may be best to negotiate a plea agreement instead of going through a trial that you will likely lose. But it is only a good idea to enter a plea agreement if an experienced criminal defense lawyer has looked through your case file and determined that this is the best option. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might have a good chance of successfully fighting your charges.
Prosecutors often pressure suspects into accepting plea deals when this would not be in their best interest. They may even try to get you to sign an agreement when they know their case has weaknesses. This is why it’s so important to have a lawyer by your side during the plea deal negotiation. If you have been accused of a crime and are considering a plea deal, call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out through the online form for a free evaluation of your case.