When you find out that the state of Virginia intends to charge you with a crime, it is common to feel panicked. After all, prosecutors typically don’t move forward with criminal charges unless they already believe they can likely win the case in court. When you know you are innocent of the alleged offense, you may still feel like pleading guilty could be the only option available to you, given that the prosecutor seems to have evidence that you played a role in an alleged criminal act.
Especially if there seems to be physical evidence, which could range from fingerprints or DNA left at the scene of a crime to tire tracks or even shoe imprints, defendants often worry that they won’t stand a chance in court.
However, physical evidence, much like eyewitness testimony, can a wind up misinterpreted by prosecutors or contaminated by law enforcement professionals. Challenging physical evidence is often a great strategy for those accused of serious crimes, including felony offenses like homicide.
Contamination or bad documentation can impact the validity of evidence
People drop thousands of skin cells off of their bodies and up to a hundred strands of hair off their heads on average every day, to say nothing of body hair. That means that anyone that can potentially contaminate a crime scene or evidence gathered at a crime scene without realizing that they did so.
As such, there are strict protocols in place regarding how law enforcement officers behave when gathering evidence and what they must do when storing, analyzing or testing that evidence. There must be very clear documentation about the collection of the evidence, as well as chain of custody records that show every person who accessed or examined the evidence since police collected it.
Inadequate documentation, indications of physical or chemical contamination, and even evidence that gets lost before you go to court could all wind up excluded from court proceedings if your attorney challenges that evidence.
If the collection of evidence was illegal, it won’t help the prosecutor
Sometimes, police officers do something questionable, like enter a property without permission or a warrant and then collect evidence to charge someone with a crime. If you believe that a violation of your civil rights resulted in the collection of evidence that the state intends to use against you, you may be able to challenge that evidence and ask the court to exclude it from criminal proceedings.