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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: 21st October 2023, 09:10 am
When law enforcement conducts a search based on a warrant, the resulting evidence can seem unassailable. However, experienced federal defense attorneys know that just because a judge signed a warrant doesn’t mean the search was legal. There are many ways for lawyers to challenge both the warrant itself and the way officers executed it. Suppressing this pivotal evidence can sometimes lead prosecutors to drop charges altogether.
For any search warrant to be valid, officers must demonstrate probable cause to a judge. This means providing credible information to show evidence of a crime will likely be found in the location to be searched. Defense lawyers will scrutinize the warrant affidavit for any legal deficiencies. Some strategies include:
If the defense can show the warrant lacked solid probable cause, the fruits of the search may be excluded from evidence.
Search warrants must precisely describe the place to be searched and items to be seized. Agents can’t simply conduct a fishing expedition. As a result, warrants are strictly limited in scope. Defense lawyers will review warrants to ensure:
By attacking technical issues with the warrant’s breadth, skilled attorneys can often get key evidence thrown out.
Even when a warrant is valid on its face, officers must execute it reasonably and properly. Defense lawyers look for execution errors like:
By demonstrating sloppy execution, the defense may convince the judge to suppress some or all fruits of the search.
If officers intentionally or recklessly included false statements in the warrant affidavit, a Franks motion can get all evidence excluded. Under the Franks standard, the defense must show:
While difficult to prove, Franks motions can completely invalidate a warrant when government misconduct is uncovered.
Before trial, defense lawyers can request a suppression hearing to argue for exclusion of evidence. Here, they get to cross-examine the officers involved, probe their credibility and cast doubt on their account. By undermining the government’s case, the defense may win suppression even without definitive proof of wrongdoing.
To mount an effective warrant challenge, the defense must secure all relevant documents through discovery. Critical records include:
Filing targeted discovery motions allows the defense to comb through government records for suppression issues.
Given the complexities of search and seizure law, defense lawyers routinely consult and retain warrant challenge experts. These include:
Leveraging this specialty expertise bolsters the defense against questionable warrants.
In addition to criminal suppression motions, consider filing a parallel civil rights lawsuit. Such suits allow broader discovery and additional lines of attack. They also put pressure on the government to avoid evidence suppression. While civil and criminal cases differ, the extra leverage provided by a civil suit can aid the defense.
While search warrants provide law enforcement with potent investigative powers, they are not beyond challenge. Skilled federal defense lawyers can often find ways to suppress illegally obtained evidence through warrant attacks. By taking advantage of these strategies, the defense can undermine the government’s case and gain critical leverage. With close scrutiny and a bit of creativity, seemingly solid warrants can sometimes crumble.
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