If a Virginia resident is charged with a crime, there must be enough evidence to convict on that charge. If there are any doubts as to the legality of evidence collected, it may be suppressed. It is important to note that evidence used in a case must be relevant and collected properly. Otherwise, a judge may grant a defendant’s motion to have it suppressed.
When collecting evidence, authorities must respect a defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. For example, the police don’t have the right to search someone’s home without probable cause to do so. Any evidence found during an illegal search may be considered invalid at trial. In some cases, evidence gathered indirectly because of an illegal search may also be disallowed during a trial. This is known as the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine.
However, exceptions may be made if an officer acted in good faith or if the evidence would likely have eventually been found through a legal search. In addition to an unlawful search, evidence may be suppressed if a defendant was not read his or her Miranda rights. Finally, if there are issues related to the chain of custody after evidence was discovered, it may be suppressed. If the chain of custody is broken for any reason, it could damage the credibility that a piece of evidence may otherwise have had.
Whether an individual is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney. If convicted, a defendant may spend time in jail, pay a fine or be put on probation. An attorney may be able to create a defense to the charge such as asserting that evidence was collected illegally. This may lead to a plea bargain or a complete acquittal.