Attorneys often speak of the suppression of evidence in Vermont criminal defense cases.
What does it mean to suppress evidence in a Vermont criminal case?
If evidence is suppressed it cannot be used as evidence during a criminal trial. In other words, the suppressed evidence is excluded from being introduced to the jury during trial. Suppressed evidence is not admissible.
Why is the suppression of evidence important in a Vermont criminal case?
The suppression of evidence can be one of the most effective and vital elements of a successful criminal defense. A Vermont criminal jury can only hear admissible evidence. Suppressed evidence is not admissible. Juries must decide whether to convict or acquit criminal a criminal defendant based only on admissible evidence presented to them during the trial.
For instance, let’s imagine that there was a robbery at a store in Barre. A witness to the robbery told the police that the get away car was a blue Buick and the driver was a male who seemed to know the area. The defendant was suspected of committing a robbery at a store in Barre because he drove a blue Buick and lived near the store. The police went out and arrested the defendant, brought him back to the station and questioned him without reading him his Miranda rights. After many hours of being held in custody without a break, food or water, the defendant confessed.
A confession is typically strong evidence against a criminal defendant. It is hard to imagine why an innocent person would confess to crime they did not commit, but it actually happens frequently. Because of the frequency that people confess to crimes they did not commit, police are required to obtain confessions in accordance with Miranda and other legal requirements.
Because confession evidence is such strong and useful evidence tending to show a defendant’s guilt, it is the type of evidence that the prosecutor wants to have admitted to a Vermont criminal jury. Conversely, for the same reason, confessions are the type of evidence that Vermont criminal defense attorneys routinely seek to have suppressed.
In our hypothetical, there exists good grounds for the suppression of the defendant’s purported confession. There is potentially lack of probable cause for arrest, Miranda issues, and potentially unconstitutional police conduct.
An experienced Vermont criminal defense attorney would investigate the issues surrounding the confession, research the case law, write, and then file a motion to suppress the defendant’s statement. If the Vermont Superior Court concluded that the confession was unlawfully obtained then it would suppress the confession evidence so that it could not be admitted into evidence before the jury.
Continuing to imagine that our hypothetical contains all the evidence against the defendant, it is easy to see how different the outcome of a jury trial for robbery could be. With the confession evidence admitted the jury could readily convict the defendant because he confessed to the crime, he drove a blue Buick, was a man, and lived nearby. With the confession evidence suppressed, and thus inadmissible to the jury, the only evidence that the jury would hear is that the defendant was a man who drove a blue Buick and lived nearby to the robbery. Juries must unanimously find a Vermont criminal defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is easy to imagine that a jury could convict the defendant based on the evidence above plus his confession, it is much more difficult to imagine a jury convicting a defendant based on just the evidence above without his confession.
If you are a defendant in a Vermont criminal case and have questions about confession evidence contact us for a free case review today.