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What is Meant by 'Suppression of the Evidence?'

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Suppression of evidence is a very broad topic that could mean different things when different laws or constitutional rights are viewed in the context of the facts.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Criminal Law Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

I have had numerous clients and would be clients asked me the question "whether their case will be thrown out because the police didn't read me my rights?"  Truth is, it all depends on what other evidence of a crime exists.  But, all to often, the mere exclusion of one piece of evidence may or may not terminate the Commonwealth's case.  The purpose of this article is to explain what 'suppression' means and what effect it will have on your case.

What is meant by 'suppression of evidence?'

Suppression means that something, as in a piece of evidence, still exists, but it is hampered or kept out by rule of law or ruling by the court.  This is because there may have been a violation of law by the police or prosecution in the manner or method by which that piece of evidence was collected, processed or brought to trial.  The policy of protecting a citizen's rights because of that violation of the law, prohibits the Commonwealth from the assistance of that piece of evidence in their case.  It deters police and prosecutors from violating the law if they know they won't be able to use the evidence anyway.  For instance:

  • A 5th/6th Amendment Violation- The Miranda ruling applies to someone who is in police custody (arrested) and are undergoing interrogation or circumstances likely to illicit a response.  The police must advice a suspect of their Miranda Rights and, if invoked, abide by the request to remain silent and stop interrogating them.  Where the police fail or refuse to abide by the invocation of one's rights or don't even give them their rights when arrested and a statement is made, the statement may be excluded from evidence.  The statement is the piece of evidence they cannot use if determined by a court.
  • A 4th Amendment Violation- The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.  The police pull you over because they don't like the way your car looks or your presence in an affluent neighborhood after dark.  They lack probable cause or reasonable suspicion that any criminal activity is afoot.  Any and all observations, physical evidence, or statements taken from the suspect upon the illegal stop may be suppressed by the court.  The stop was illegal and everything that flows from it may be suppressed.

In this regard, suppression of evidence is a very broad topic that could mean different things in terms of the law and the constitutional rights that are applicable.  Suppression will never mean the same thing in different cases because of the facts and the law.  It's important to have a clear and accurate recount of everything that occurred when you were arrested so you can advise your attorney.  It is always helpful to sit down and write out a chronology of events as they occurred starting from the point of initial interraction with the police until you were released.  Small details count.

If you've been arrested or are being investigated by the police, contact an experienced attorney.  Do not speak to the police before consulting with counsel.  You may call Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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