Anyone charged with a criminal offense in the US is entitled to certain rights guaranteed under the US Constitution as well as those embodied in the state’s constitution where the offense was committed. In any criminal matter, the burden of proving the defendant committed the crime is on the state, which must prove to the jury or court’s satisfaction (if a court trial only) each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Unreasonable Search and Seizure
A criminal defense lawyer will look to see if the defendant’s rights have been protected or violated in formulating a defense to the criminal charges. One protected right found in the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution is that a person is protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents. A criminal defense is that, any evidence seized in violation of this right cannot be used against the defendant.
There are numerous exceptions to this right, such as evidence found in plain view or weapons found on the defendant or in his immediate vicinity following his or her arrest, which is designed to protect the arresting officer. Other searches are made pursuant to a search warrant, which has certain requirements that must be followed. Otherwise, you may have a viable criminal defense.
A search warrant can only be obtained if law enforcement has credible evidence based on sufficient facts that certain evidence exists at a certain location and where it may be found. The officer requesting the warrant must attest to it under oath and a judge must be convinced that probable cause exists based on the affidavit that there is evidence that has or is intended to be used unlawfully, that it is being illegally possessed, or that it would be material evidence in a prosecution.
The warrant must also indicate the hours within which it can be executed and the dates. If the agents conducting the search go beyond the scope of the search warrant by seizing items not named or going into areas not designated, then you may have a credible criminal defense to argue that the evidence seized must be suppressed. Also, it is a criminal defense that if the basis on which the warrant was issued was intentionally falsified, the evidence may not used against the defendant.
Arrest or Detention
People accused of crimes can be arrested by an arrest warrant, which also must be attested to under oath and based on facts that constitutes probable cause that this person committed or will commit a crime. Although not common, it is a criminal defense that the warrant is defective if not based on probable cause.
Otherwise, the officer may have to witness you committing or about to commit a crime, or have probable cause to believe so, before detaining or arresting you. For example, police cannot randomly stop you or your vehicle unless you have committed a violation of some kind.
However, you can be detained and subject to a limited search for weapons if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you may have or are about to commit a crime. If you fit the description of a wanted criminal or are in the area where a crime was just committed, you may be subject to a brief stop and search. If the detention and search was random or racially motivated, you may have a criminal defense that it was unreasonable.
Further, you have a right against self-incrimination. It is a criminal defense if you were coerced into giving a confession or incriminating statement, or not advised of your right to remain silent and to speak only to an attorney.
Most serious criminal offenses require criminal intent to commit the act, otherwise it is a criminal defense to the charge. For example, a person must knowingly and intentionally possess illegal narcotics. If drugs are found in a house occupied by several adults in a common area, it may be difficult to prove intent to possess.
It is a criminal defense if a person carrying a package may not have intended to possess any illegal substances found in it unless the state can prove he or she had knowledge of its contents and had the intent to possess it.
In a burglary allegation, it is a criminal defense if the state cannot prove that the defendant intended to commit a crime in a structure; otherwise the crime of burglary cannot be proved.
The lack of intent as a criminal defense is often used in homicide cases where premeditation must be proved for a first degree conviction, or that the defendant intended to kill or cause great bodily harm. If the defendant was merely negligent or reckless, then the requisite intent is not proved.
The information contained in this article is not intended to, and should not be used, as legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. Each criminal case is different and anyone charged with a crime should seek legal advice from a criminal defense attorney.