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Juror who prompted calls for new Ghislaine Maxwell trial turns to lawyer who defended Anna Sorokin.
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Last Updated on: 27th October 2023, 06:55 pm
As a defense attorney, one of our most important jobs is to protect our client’s constitutional rights. This includes making sure police and investigators follow proper procedures when gathering evidence against them. If not, we can file a motion to suppress that evidence so it can’t be used at trial.
There’s a few main ways we can argue for suppression based on violations of a defendant’s 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights. Let’s break them down one-by-one:
The 4th Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. This means cops need a warrant from a judge, based on probable cause, to search someone’s property or person. There’s a few exceptions, like traffic stops or plain view doctrine, but in general they need a warrant.
If police search without a warrant, we can argue the search was illegal and ask the judge to suppress any evidence found. This is called the “exclusionary rule.” There’s lots of cases where this happens – like if cops search a car without permission, do a patdown without cause, or barge into a home without a warrant.
Even with a warrant, we may argue the warrant itself was defective. Like if the warrant was too vague, or based on an untrustworthy informant. If the judge agrees the warrant was no good, the search was illegal and we can suppress.
Here’s a tricky one – if cops find evidence illegally, then use that evidence to get more warrants and find more evidence, we can argue for suppressing all of it through the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. It all stems from illegal activity, so it’s all suppressed!
The 5th Amendment says people don’t have to be witnesses against themselves in criminal cases. This means cops can’t force someone to give evidence that would incriminate them.
If police question a suspect without reading their Miranda rights, anything they say can get suppressed. Also if cops coerce a confession through threats, or the suspect wasn’t mentally capable of consenting. That all gets thrown out.
Let’s talk more about Miranda rights. Basically, before police can question a suspect in custody, they have to tell them:
If they don’t read those rights, we can suppress the interrogation. Now there’s some exceptions – like if it was a routine traffic stop or they needed info for public safety. But in general, no Miranda = no interrogation allowed as evidence.
The 6th Amendment guarantees the right to an attorney. So if police deny that right during questioning or at trial, any confessions or testimony they get could get thrown out.
Like if a suspect asks for a lawyer but the cops refuse and keep grilling them. Or if they weren’t allowed to meet with their attorney before trial. Those violations mean key evidence was gathered improperly.
There’s some steps we take as defense lawyers to identify and call out these illegal evidence collections:
The timing here is key – we gotta find issues and file that motion early, before trial starts and evidence gets presented. Don’t wait until the last minute on this one!
Let’s look at some real cases where defense lawyers got evidence thrown out on constitutional grounds:
In a 2016 case, cops pulled over a car for speeding. When the officer approached, he claimed he smelled marijuana coming from the car. He searched the car and found a bag of methamphetamine. The defense attorney argued there was no probable cause for the search – just speeding doesn’t give cops the right to rifle through someone’s car. The judge agreed and suppressed the drug evidence. Case dismissed!
In a 1990 case, a disabled man admitted during interrogation that he committed robbery and assault. But he had an IQ of 65, functioned at the level of a 10-year-old, and didn’t understand his Miranda rights. His lawyer successfully argued his confession was coerced and wrongfully obtained in violation of the 5th and 6th Amendments. It was excluded and charges dismissed.
In a 2018 case, FBI agents entered a home without a warrant to install hidden cameras as part of a drug investigation. They claimed it was consensual. The defense highlighted evidence the homeowner felt intimidated and didn’t voluntarily consent. The search was ruled unconstitutional and videos obtained thrown out.
Getting illegally obtained evidence thrown out is a huge win for the defense. It not only protects our client’s rights, but often tank the prosecutor’s case entirely. Many times, charges end up dropped once that key evidence is suppressed.
That’s why filing thorough, aggressive suppression motions is one of the most important things we can do as defense lawyers. It keeps the system fair and constitutionally sound. We have to hold police accountable and prevent them from overreaching in investigations. Otherwise our basic liberties are at stake.
The law is on our side here. Both federal and state courts have upheld again and again that if evidence is obtained improperly, it does not come in. As defense attorneys, we lean on this precedent to safeguard our clients’ rights. It’s a crucial check and balance against government power in the criminal justice system.
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