Constitutional violations can serve as a defense to criminal charges

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2023 | Federal Criminal Charges |

The United States Constitution, particularly the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, can be used to protect defendants from criminal convictions. Criminal defense attorneys in Tennessee will often use a defense strategy that addresses constitutional violations.

Incorporating constitutional violations into your defense

If you are facing federal criminal charges, a constitutional violation may occur at any time from the time of the initial arrest to the end of the trial. If you establish a constitutional violation, critical evidence may be thrown out of your case, or your charges may be dropped altogether.

Fourth Amendment defense

Under the Fourth Amendment, a law enforcement officer generally must have a warrant or probable cause to search you or your property (e.g., your home or vehicle) for evidence of a crime. There are exceptions to the rule, however, such as if you consented to the search.

Evidence collected during a search is often a critical part of a prosecutor’s case. However, if an officer conducts an illegal search, the evidence obtained during that search will generally be suppressed and, therefore, inadmissible in your case. The prosecutor will then have to rely on other evidence to prove your guilt.

Fifth Amendment defense

Because of the self-incrimination protections provided by the Fifth Amendment, law enforcement must read you your Miranda rights before questioning you while in custody. The officer is required to recite the following words (or something similar):

  • You have the right to remain silent.
  • Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
  • You have the right to an attorney.
  • If you do not have one, one will be appointed to you by the court.

If they begin to question you without reading you your rights, any statements you make, including confessions, may be excluded from your case. Without your statements, prosecutors may have a much harder time building a case against you.

Establishing that law enforcement officials violated your Constitutional rights may give you the best chance at a reduced sentence or dropped charges. However, there may be several defense strategies that are applicable to your specific case.