When Virginia state prosecutors file charges against individuals, they usually have evidence that they think is sufficient to secure a conviction. The vast majority of the time, those accused of breaking the law plead guilty. Some people wrongfully assume that a guilty plea will limit the penalties they face. Others simply hope to avoid a trial because they believe there is no way to defend against even unfounded charges when the state seemingly has evidence against them.
What many people who quickly plead guilty fail to realize is that there are actually many circumstances in which evidence may not be as useful in a criminal trial as a defendant might initially think. When might evidence not hold up under scrutiny in court?
When police broke the law
There are rules about how and when police officers can conduct searches. If police officers violate those rules, the illegal attempt to gather evidence could very well affect the ability of state prosecutors to use that evidence in criminal proceedings. Attorneys can use the exclusionary rule to prevent a prosecutor from presenting evidence gathered by illegal means or through a violation of someone’s rights.
When there are errors in the process
Perhaps police officers failed to appropriately secure a crime scene, which may have led to contamination. Maybe there are issues with the records of the chain of custody for physical evidence, or perhaps the laboratory mishandled samples, which may have altered the accuracy of chemical test results. When there are either gaps in evidentiary records or when the records indicate a deviation from best practices, the evidence might not hold up under scrutiny in court.
When experts can reanalyze the evidence
Many criminal defendants rely on expert witness testimony to fight their charges. They bring in professionals who understand forensic science, accounting or technology to explain a situation to the courts and raise questions about whether they committed a crime.
Any of these approaches can potentially help someone develop the reasonable doubt necessary to avoid a criminal conviction during trial. Realizing that evidence alone isn’t enough to guarantee a conviction might inspire some people to commit to defending against criminal charges with the assistance of an experienced defense attorney.