Can Evidence Gathered in Violation of Your Rights be Used Against You in Court?

One of the most common questions we get from our clients is whether or not evidence that was gathered in violation of their rights can be used against them in court. While common sense would seem to dictate that it should not be able to be used against you, unfortunately in Arizona this an exception that often allows this evidence through. It is important to understand your rights as well as this exception, which is known as the “good faith” exception.

First, what are your rights if you get arrested? Most of us have watched enough crime dramas that we know these rights are called Miranda rights, and that they are as follows: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you.”

However, you also have a Fourth Amendment right to privacy which protects you against “unreasonable” searches and seizures by the government. This often comes into play during an arrest, as law enforcement almost always will conduct a search of your person and often your property if they arrest you. This search, however, has to be reasonable, and what is and is not considered reasonable has been litigated extensively by the courts. If law enforcement’s search was not conducted within the parameters of someone’s Fourth or Fifth Amendment rights, a defendant can argue that any evidence obtained as a result of this search should be suppressed—basically, that it should not be eligible for use against them in court.

As you might expect, these kinds of motions are incredibly common in Arizona DUI and drug cases, where the type and availability of evidence against a defendant can mean the difference between hefty fines and prison sentences. However, a skilled Arizona criminal defense attorney can recognize when to make a motion to suppress in other kinds of cases, too. Generally, courts will grant a motion to suppress if they find that the officer violated the defendant’s rights in collecting the evidence. However, Arizona law provides that evidence collected under these circumstances will not be suppressed if the officer’s actions were based on “a reasonable, good faith belief that the conduct was proper.”

Thus, if a court believes that an officer in good faith believed that they were able to gather the evidence, the court will allow it. The thinking behind this is that excluding this kind of evidence will not deter law enforcement from gathering evidence in this way, because they are acting in good faith. While the idealism of this is understandable, unfortunately we know that law enforcement are able to use this argument to defend behavior that was probably not in “good faith.” This is why it is critically important that you hire an experienced Arizona criminal defense attorney who knows how to rebut a good faith exception argument.

If you feel your rights were violated during an arrest, you need to call Arizona Lawyers. We have years of experience successfully defending clients in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Yuma, Flagstaff, and Glendale areas, and are ready to help you. Contact us today.