Before charging someone with many crimes, like rape, theft, kidnapping, or murder, the police would conduct a criminal investigation and collect evidence to help convict the person. Unfortunately, the police sometimes make big mistakes when performing their duties. We see this all the time in the news.
If you are facing criminal charges, you need to know the common errors law enforcement officials frequently make when conducting their investigations. If you can identify mistakes in your criminal case, you may be able to use these errors to fight the charges against you.
Leading Police Investigation Mistakes That You May Be Able to Use in Your Defense
If you discover that the police made errors in their criminal investigation, you may be able to file a motion to suppress the evidence being used against you. The suppression of crucial evidence needed to convict you can significantly weaken the prosecutor’s case and result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less severe offense through a plea bargain.
Here are common mistakes the police make:
- Failing to secure the scene. The police must adequately secure the crime scene so that people do not contaminate or tamper with the evidence. Evidence can be compromised when they fail to maintain the security of the crime scene. For example, new fingerprints could be introduced, fingerprints at the scene could be smudged, and hair and other evidence could be introduced by individuals with no involvement in the crime.
- Failing to collect evidence properly. Many types of evidence are collected in criminal investigations, including hair, blood, fingerprints, weapons, footprints, DNA, and skin cells. When the police collect or photograph evidence, they must follow strict procedures to avoid the evidence being contaminated or having test results be inaccurate. Common mistakes police make include not packaging evidence correctly, labeling it improperly, and failing to document where it was collected.
- Breaking the chain in custody. Law enforcement officials must maintain a proper chain of custody for any evidence used in a criminal case from the time it is collected until it is used against the defendant in court. Unfortunately, chain of custody errors are common and include failing to properly store evidence, allowing evidence to be changed, and failing to limit who has access to the evidence. If your criminal defense lawyer can prove that the chain of custody was broken in your case, the judge could suppress the evidence and refuse to allow it in court.
- Not giving a Miranda warning. When the police take a suspect into custody, they must give them their Miranda warnings about their rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present when interrogating them. If they failed to provide you with these warnings or continued to question you once you asserted your rights, they may not be able to use your statements or confession against you.
- Not having reasonable suspicion and probable cause. The police must have reasonable suspicion to stop you and probable cause, which is a higher standard, to arrest or search you. If there is a lack of reasonable suspicion or probable cause, this could be grounds to get a criminal case dismissed.
- Failing to properly execute a warrant. The police must often obtain a search warrant to search a defendant, their vehicle, property, home, or records. Common mistakes are fabricating or exaggerating evidence to obtain a search warrant, not stating items to be seized in the search warrant, and searching for or taking evidence not specified in the search warrant.
- Using excessive force. Unfortunately, the police sometimes use excessive force when detaining or arresting someone, often with tragic results. If law enforcement officials used excessive force to stop or arrest you, you might be able to get a favorable plea bargain with the prosecutor. You could also file a civil rights lawsuit for compensation for the violation of your constitutional rights.
Contact a Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney Today
Are you facing criminal charges in Virginia? Criminal defense attorney Kevin Wilson can determine if the police made these or other mistakes in your criminal case. Call our Manassas office at 888-DUI-LWYR or contact us online today to schedule your free initial consultation to learn how we can aggressively defend you.