There are several requirements that the state must meet to prosecute someone successfully for a criminal offense in Missouri. Generally speaking, for example, there needs to be relatively conclusive evidence that someone violated state statutes.
Police officers and other investigators gather evidence in a variety of ways to help prosecutors bring charges against those who violate state law. Sometimes, people accused of criminal offenses plead guilty simply because they assume they have no way of defending themselves against the state’s evidence. However, it is sometimes possible to suppress the evidence that the state intends to use during a criminal trial by challenging it. Commonly, the circumstances explored below may justify a challenge against the state’s evidence in Missouri.
Illegal searches and other civil rights violations
The law limits the conduct of police officers to protect people from abusive government activity. For example, police officers can only search private property in a handful of specific situations. If police officers intend to question someone that they recently arrested, they need to inform that person of their right to remain silent. The exclusionary rule allows lawyers to challenge the inclusion of evidence gathered through a violation of someone’s civil rights.
Improper police practices
Sometimes, the way that police officers gather, transfer or store evidence could alter the usefulness of that evidence. Chemical contamination of evidence is one possible issue. An incomplete chain of custody showing how the state stored and analyzed the evidence is another. If police officers or state laboratories do not adhere to best practices when gathering or analyzing evidence, it may be possible to challenge the inclusion of the evidence or the laboratory reports about it.
There are many scenarios in which the state may try to use outdated scientific practices to prove that someone broke the law. For example, perhaps the prosecutor intends to use 911-call analysis to make a statement about someone’s involvement in a crime or state of mind. Other times, they may bring in an expert who does not have particularly impressive credentials. An expert witness could help counter claims made by the prosecution and raise questions about someone’s involvement in an incident.
A defendant needs to understand that just because the state has evidence against them does not automatically mean that conviction is an inevitability. Recognizing when the state has mediocre or unlawful evidence could help people plan an appropriate response to pending criminal charges with the assistance of a skilled attorney.