The news over the last two weeks has focused heavily on the fatal police shooting and resulting protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Depending on your age and where you live in the United States, this story can either feel foreign or frighteningly close to home.
If you are currently facing criminal charges, you may be worried that the evidence against you seems pretty strong. But are you sure the evidence was obtained legally? In most cases, police officers must obtain a warrant before conducting a search of your property.
We have previously written about the problem of wrongful convictions in the United States. Awareness of this problem continues to grow thanks to the work of the Innocence Project and similar groups. Not only is the IP helping to exonerate innocent individuals, it is also providing important data on the most common problems that lead to wrongful convictions in the first place.
Getting arrested can be pretty scary. Even if you know you are innocent, you may be overwhelmed and therefore not thinking clearly when you are taken into custody. Many arrestees often say or do things that they regret later because instinct told them to automatically cooperate with police.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects Americans against “unreasonable search and seizure” by law enforcement. In most cases, this means that police cannot search us or our property without first obtaining a warrant.
Imagine losing your spouse and children in a devastating house fire. While trying to process this immense loss, police accuse you of intentionally setting the fire. This was the horror felt by a Midwestern man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime that wasn’t a crime at all.
What constitutes evidence in a criminal trial? More importantly, what constitutes solid and irrefutable evidence? Anyone who has seen any of the dozens of television crime dramas would tell you that forensic science is the objective truth. Sadly, shows like “CSI” are far more fiction than fact – particularly when it comes to the reliability of forensic science.
There is a good reason why the accused must be presumed innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In any criminal case where hard evidence is in short supply, there could be a number of narratives constructed to explain the information that is known. But just because an alleged crime could have occurred in a certain way, this alone is not a reason to conclude that it did.
If you have been arrested and/or charged with a crime, you have a lot to lose. Many defendants make the mistake of thinking they don’t need an experienced criminal defense attorney because the charges against them are relatively small.
Criminal justice reform is perhaps one of the most pressing and difficult issues of our time. Despite being the “land of the free,” the United States incarcerates more of its own citizens than any other country in the world. This is not only a problem in its own right; it also contributes to a destructive pattern often seen among imprisoned offenders.