Constitutional Issues in Maryland Federal Criminal Cases
Evidence is instrumental to building federal cases, which is why it is vital to make sure that the evidence was gained through legal means. In some instances, there are constitutional issues in Maryland federal criminal cases that could hinder the prosecution’s case. An experienced federal criminal lawyer could sometimes leverage these issues in order to have evidence omitted, and build your defense. That is why it is important to work with a skilled attorney that could use their knowledge to ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive a fair trial. Contact a lawyer today and know that you are in capable hands.
Fourth Amendment Issues
The Fourth Amendment, which governs searches and seizures, is one of the main sources of constitutional issues in Maryland federal criminal cases because criminal cases may involve searches and/or seizures of a person upon their arrest. The law is quite developed as to what constitutes a reasonable search and what does not. If the government conducts a search and finds evidence and it is later determined that the search was unconstitutional, the government cannot use any of that evidence regardless of how damaging or incriminating the evidence is. Evidence could be obtained in an unconstitutional manner and there are other issues such as the inevitable discovery that says although the search was unconstitutional search, the government would have obtained the evidence anyway. If there are no qualifiers and the government conducts an unconstitutional search, the fruits of that search cannot be admitted as evidence. When a search turns up contraband, guns, drugs, computer records, or an electronic search, the Fourth Amendment becomes a huge issue.
Over the years, hundreds of cases established the contours of what constitutes a reasonable search or seizure. When law enforcement fails to abide by the constitution by failing to follow proper procedure, any evidence obtained cannot be used in court. For example, a police officer could pull someone over and find a large quantity of drugs in the vehicle. If the stop was unconstitutional because the officer did not have a good reason to stop the person, they cannot introduce the drugs as evidence against the person in court. The evidence is thrown out and that may be the entire case because there is no evidence of anything illegal in the person’s car.
Fifth Amendment Rights
Constitutional issues in Maryland federal criminal cases also come up in relation to statements made by a person in police custody. A person in police custody has an absolute right to remain silent and refuse to answer any questions by law enforcement officers, as stipulated by the Fifth Amendment. They do not have to tell a person they have the right to remain silent and have the right to legal counsel. If the police officer tries to get statements from the person or questions the person without advising them of those rights, any statements they subsequently make cannot come into evidence. It becomes a constitutional issue because any statement a person makes must be knowing and voluntary. The person has to know about their right to remain silent and their right to speak with an attorney before speaking to law enforcement. The person has to know that if they cannot afford an attorney, one can be appointed to them free of cost. Knowing all of that, a person might voluntarily make a statement, they cannot be pressured into it. The government cannot coerce the person into making a statement.
The police try to do everything they can to minimize the warnings to make it seem as if it is a formality. They may try to act like they are the person’s friend and it is in their best interest to talk to the police without a lawyer present. The defense attorney examines that interaction closely to understand the process that went into procuring a statement. They establish whether the person was properly advised and whether they asserted their right to an attorney at any time. As soon as a person tells the law enforcement officer they want to speak to an attorney, the questioning comes to a stop. The police cannot continue to try to get statements from the person. The law is clear that the questioning must stop.
How an Attorney Could Help With Fourth and Fifth Amendment Issues
If someone is intoxicated, that may render their statement involuntary even if they signed the waiver and said that they understood all their rights. If the person is not in the right mindset or is totally unaware of their surroundings because of intoxication, mental health reasons, or for any other reason, their statement might not be knowing or voluntary. Sometimes, confessions or statements from the defendant can be critical and impactful for a jury to hear. The defense attorney does everything possible to find a way to keep those statements out of evidence, including filing a motion to dismiss the evidence. The attorney could also file a motion to dismiss evidence that was found through illegal search and seizures, under the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. A skilled lawyer could take the necessary steps to resolve constitutional issues in Maryland federal criminal cases.