The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects people against unreasonable searches and seizures. What happens if your Fourth Amendment rights are violated? If you are facing a criminal charge, you have a number of different options available—including the right to seek the exclusion of unlawfully obtained evidence. Within this article, our Galveston criminal defense attorney provides a comprehensive overview of the key things you should understand about your right to get evidence excluded in Texas.
Background: Relevant Evidence is Generally Admissible in Texas, Irrelevant Evidence is Not
Evidence is central to any criminal case. When a person is facing a criminal charge in Southeast Texas, it is imperative that they are able to ensure that any evidence being presented against them in court is fair. In Texas, the primary factor that determines whether or not evidence can be included in a criminal trial is relevance. The fundamental guiding principle is relatively straightforward: If evidence is relevant, it can be heard. On the contrary, irrelevant evidence is generally inadmissible.
Major Exception: Relevant Evidence May Be Excluded for Constitutional Violation
There are exceptions to the relevance standard. Indeed, even if evidence is clearly “relevant”, there are circumstances where it may be excluded from a criminal trial. A prominent exception occurs when the evidence is obtained in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights. For instance, if law enforcement secures evidence through an unlawful search and seizure that violates the Fourth Amendment, that evidence may be deemed inadmissible. Your primary remedy against an illegal search or seizure is taking action to get that evidence excluded from a criminal case.
Your Galveston Defense Attorney Can File a Motion to Suppress Evidence
It is important to emphasize that illegally obtained evidence is likely not going to get thrown out by police, prosecutors, or the court without you taking proactive measures. While law enforcement officers have a responsibility to avoid illegal searches and prosecutors have a duty to avoid introducing inadmissible evidence, the reality is that you cannot rely on them to protect your rights.
Your criminal defense lawyer can help. An attorney can file a type of legal document called a motion to suppress evidence prior to your trial. Broadly explained, this motion formally requests the court to exclude evidence from being presented during the trial. A successful motion to suppress can have a huge impact on a case. Indeed, without the illegally obtained evidence, the prosecution may not even reasonably be able to move forward at all and the charges may be dropped.
What Types of Evidence Can Be Suppressed in a Criminal Case in Texas?
A wide range of different types of evidence could potentially be excluded from a criminal case. Depending on the specific nature of the charges you are facing and the evidence being put forward by police and prosecutors, you may be able to get any of the following types of evidence thrown out of your case through a motion to suppress:
- Physical Evidence: Physical evidence is key in many cases. If physical evidence—such as drugs, a weapon, or alleged stolen property—was illegally obtained, it may be excluded.
- Confessions or Statements: Admissions obtained without properly administered Miranda warnings or in violation of the right to counsel. A confession could be excluded.
- Third Party Eyewitness Identifications: Identifications that are conducted in a suggestive or unreliable manner may be a form of illegally obtained evidence.
Texas Law: Unfair or Confusing Evidence May Also Be Excluded from a Trial
Under the Texas Rules of Evidence (Rule 403), evidence that is deemed relevant may also be excluded if “its probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of one or more of the following: unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, or undue delay.” In other words, there are certain situations in which other relevant evidence may be subject to exclusion from a criminal trial even if that evidence was not unlawfully obtained.
Contact Our Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyer for Immediate Legal Help
At The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our Galveston criminal defense attorney has the professional expertise that you can trust. If you have questions about getting evidence excluded from a criminal case, we can help. Call us at (409) 765-5614 or send us a message online for a confidential consultation. With offices in Galveston, League City, and Houston, we are well positioned to handle misdemeanor and felony criminal charges throughout Southeast Texas.