Every day in Wisconsin, people are arrested and charged with crimes on the basis of evidence that is questionable. Police and prosecutors are not immune to mistakes, and no one should be convicted on the basis of faulty evidence.
In general, if the police illegally obtain evidence against you, the evidence should be regarded as inadmissible in court. However, getting evidence thrown out and charges dropped does not happen automatically. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side to thoroughly scrutinize the prosecution’s case for any violations of your rights.
Below are three types of violations that could lead to evidence being thrown out and charges dismissed or reduced.
1. Illegal search and seizure
There are laws and procedures for how police may search you or your property. In fact, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution affords you protection against illegal search and seizure. The police may even have a warrant to search your property or arrest you, but the police do not have free rein to search anything and everything they like. A search warrant must be limited in scope, and the police must have a valid reason to go beyond the scope of the search warrant to seize evidence. The warrant must be specific about the property to be searched, as well as the type of evidence the search is meant to find. Likewise, the police must have a valid reason to search you or your property in the absence of a search warrant (during a traffic stop, for example). If the police obtain evidence through a search that violates your rights, the evidence should be regarded as inadmissible in court.
For more on illegal search and seizure, please see our previous post:
2. When the police fail to inform you of your rights
You have the right to remain silent when you encounter police. That means you have the right not to say anything that might incriminate you. If the police fail to inform you of this right (by either telling you or showing you your “Miranda Rights”), your statements to police may be inadmissible in court.
For more on your right to remain silent, please see our previous post:
3. When police or informants obtain evidence through entrapment
In some criminal investigations, undercover law enforcement officers or confidential informants are used to obtain evidence. However, law enforcement is not allowed to persuade or induce someone to commit a crime when that person otherwise would not have committed the crime. When law enforcement or a confidential informant unlawfully persuades or induces someone to commit a crime, this is known as entrapment. Note: entrapment can be very difficult to prove in court, but entrapment is also a reality in many criminal cases. If evidence against you was obtained through entrapment, that evidence should be regarded as inadmissible in court.
For more on use of confidential informants in criminal investigations, please see our previous post:
Get the legal representation you need
Whatever your circumstances may be, and whatever charge you may be facing, your most important first step should be to get in touch with a criminal defense lawyer who defends cases in your county in Wisconsin. For more on that, please see our overview of “What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney.”