Criminal attorneys are often asked about how cases get dismissed on technicalities. Typically, these “technicalities” are constitutional protections guaranteed to all people in the United States. When the government fails to comply with the Constitution, and fails to afford people constitutional protections, evidence may be suppressed, and in some situations, cases are dismissed because of that suppression of evidence.
In criminal law, issues commonly referred to as “technicalities” involve six different areas of the law. These include:
- Suppression due to lack of probable cause for the defendant’s stop by the police;
- Suppression of defendant statements;
- Suppression of improper search and seizures;
- Improper warrants; as well as
This post briefly discusses each of these topics. As one might imagine with constitutional issues, any particular set of facts requires additional in-depth analysis.
A Criminal Attorney Explains – Stop and Detention
People have the right to move about in society without being stopped – or detained – by police, except under certain circumstances. So, for example, the police cannot stop your car just because they don’t happen to like a red pick-up truck and you are driving a red pick-up truck. Or they suspect that some kind of criminal activity is occurring. On the other hand, police do have the right to stop your car if you are speeding or committing some other traffic offense. They then have the opportunity to speak to you and observe your behavior. They rarely are allowed to legally follow up their investigation with any questions or detention beyond the initial reasons for the stop.
A Criminal Attorney Explains Statements
Almost everyone can recite the Miranda Warning. However, few people understand when it applies. Law enforcement must tell you about your right to remain silent, and your right to an attorney, if two circumstances are both present:
- You are in custody and not permitted to leave; and additionally
- Questioning (also referred to as “interrogation”) is beginning about the allegations against you.
Contrary to what you may see on television, law enforcement does not have to read you your rights prior to detention and arrest. (Many times investigative targets may give a ‘blurt out’ which is a voluntary statement to the police when they are not even questioning a potential suspect or defendant.
A Criminal Attorney Explains Searches
You have the right, under the 4th Amendment, to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Consequently, law enforcement may only search your person, your property, or your papers if probable cause exists supporting a belief evidence of a crime exists in the area searched. Never give permission for the police to search your car or home. If there is reason for the search, the court must approve the police request first.
A Criminal Attorney Explains Seizures
When law enforcement seizes evidence, they must do so in a legal manner. For example, if a warrant (discussed below) permits law enforcement access to your garage to search for a stolen car, law enforcement is not permitted to expand the search to seize the contents of your email account on your computer. Your email account does not and cannot include a stolen vehicle. Consequently, this exceeds the permissible bounds of the search.
A Criminal Attorney Explains Warrants
Both arrest warrants and search warrants have limits. Certain warrants only permit execution during the daytime hours. Other warrants require law enforcement to knock and announce their presence and purpose. All warrants must contain sufficient information establishing law enforcement’s reasonable belief that the place or object to be searched contains evidence of a crime.
A Criminal Attorney Explains Probable Cause
The government can’t simply charge people with crimes because law enforcement suspects someone is doing illegal things. Rather, a criminal complaint must detail with specificity the evidence supporting the belief the person charged, committed a crime. In other words, there must be probable cause to believe the person charged is guilty of the offense. Then and only then will the court approve the criminal complaint.
Charged with a Crime?
When charged with a crime, you need an experienced criminal lawyer on your side. At the Law Office of Steven F. O’Meara, we have over 25 years of criminal defense experience. We carefully review the evidence in criminal cases, searching for evidence of any constitutional violations committed by the government. Let our experience work for you. Contact us discuss your case today.