In a criminal case, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The government’s attorneys must present an air-tight case for conviction; and, with the defendant’s freedom on the line, even a single fact can mean the difference between a guilty verdict and the defendant going home. With this in mind, if you have been charged with a crime in Pennsylvania, you need to focus on the facts of your case.
Defenses can arise out of the facts surrounding the alleged criminal act, the arresting officers’ conduct, and events occurring after the arrest. Here are 12 examples of facts that might just determine the outcome of your criminal case:
Facts Prior to Your Arrest
1. Where You Were
One of the strongest defenses to criminal allegations is to challenge the government’s evidence that you were at the scene of the crime when the crime was committed. If you can show that you were somewhere else, or if you can at least challenge the government’s evidence linking you to the scene of the crime, this could protect you against a conviction.
2. Who You Were With
Can someone else testify as to your whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime? If you were alone, it may be your word against the governments. But, if there is someone else who can confirm your alibi, this could swing the weight of the evidence in your favor.
3. Whether Anyone Witnessed the Alleged Crime
Are there any potential witnesses who can identify the perpetrator as someone other than yourself? Even if you were at the scene of the crime, this does not conclusively establish that you were involved. If there is someone else out there who may be able to shed light on what really happened, this is something your attorney needs to know.
4. How Long it Took the Alleged Victim to Call the Police
If you have been accused of theft, burglary, domestic violence, rape, or any property-related, sexual, or violent offense, the length of time it took your accuser to call the police could be an important fact as well. Why did it take so long? Did your accuser need time to come up with a story? Could key evidence have disappeared?
Facts During Your Arrest
5. Whether You Were (or Appeared to Be) Actively Engaged in Unlawful Conduct
If you were not caught in the act, then the government will need something beyond the arresting officer’s testimony to prove that you committed the crime alleged. If there is no evidence definitively linking you to the crime, then the government will need to build a circumstantial case, which is much more difficult to prove.
6. Whether the Police had a Warrant
A warrant is not required under all circumstances; but, if you were unlawfully arrested without a warrant or if the police searched or seized your property without a warrant, then any evidence obtained subsequent to the unlawful arrest, search, or seizure may be inadmissible in your case.
7. Whether the Police Read Your Miranda Rights
Prior to conducting custodial interrogation, the police must read your Miranda rights. If you said something before you were taken into custody (or reasonably believed that you were not free to leave), then your statement might still be admissible in your case. However, if you were unconstitutionally interrogated, then anything you said in response to questioning should be deemed inadmissible.
8. Whether the Police Meet Their Other Legal Duties
For certain types of offenses (such as “implied consent” violations), the police must notify you of your obligation to comply with the law. If the police failed to provide such notice (or failed to take any other steps necessary to fulfill their legal duties), then you may be able to use their failure as a defense.
Facts Subsequent to Your Arrest
9. Whether You Were Unlawfully Interrogated in Custody
When you get arrested, the police do not have to read your Miranda rights immediately. As a general rule, all that is required is that they read your rights prior to conducting a custodial interrogation. If you were questioned at any time while you were in police custody without having been informed of your rights, then the prosecution should not be able to use your statements against you.
10. Whether You Were Denied Your Right to Counsel
While there are limits on the right to counsel, once you are in custody or facing criminal charges, you are generally entitled to legal advice. If you have asked for and been refused the opportunity to speak with a lawyer, this may be a fact that warrants the exclusion of incriminating evidence as well.
11. Whether the Government’s Witnesses are Credible
If the prosecution has witnesses who will testify against you, challenging these witnesses’ credibility is one potential way to limit the effects of their testimony. Whether a witness has an ulterior motive or has a history of making false representations, there are various facts that your attorney may be able to raise in order to question his or her credibility.
12. How the Government has Handled Any Evidence in Its Possession
Finally, in order to preserve the admissibility of physical evidence, the government must maintain a clear chain of custody and protect it against tampering. If it cannot clearly be shown that the evidence against you has remained in its original state and in government custody, then exposing this fact may be enough to keep the evidence out of court.
Discuss Your Case with Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Fishman
These are just a small sampling of the numerous facts and circumstances that can affect the outcome of a criminal case in Pennsylvania. If you are facing criminal charges, it is important that you speak with an experienced defense lawyer in order to identify all of the defense strategies you have available. To schedule an appointment with Philadelphia defense attorney Brian Fishman, call us at 267-758-2228 or request a confidential consultation online now.