Criminal Suppression Hearings – Challenging the Credibility of Police Testimony

Criminal Suppression Hearings – Challenging the Credibility of Police Testimony

It is typical that in criminal matters, the prosecution will attempt to introduce certain types of evidence that might have been improperly obtained by the police. This evidence will usually take the form of statements made by the accused (confessions or admissions), physical evidence (i.e., contraband or the “smoking gun”) or identification testimony (i.e., derived from a photo array, show-up or line-up identification procedure). Prior to trial, the defense is entitled to a pre-trial suppression hearing to determine if such evidence was obtained illegally and if it will be admissible or suppressed from being used at trial.

These suppression hearings have various names but the most common are known as Huntley (to suppress statements), Mapp (physical evidence) and Wade (identification testimony) hearings.  Many times the prosecutor, in  attempting to meet their initial burden of going forward at the suppression hearing, will  rely upon the testimony of police officers involved in the acquisition of such evidence. Mindful of the abuses that can occur, rules of the court dictate that a  court is directed to reject police testimony that is “tailored to override constitutional objections.” However, despite this general rule of law, a criminal defense lawyer’s ability to convince a court that police testimony should be rejected is normally not an easy task.

Many judges (especially conservative ones) have a tendency to defer to the word of the apparent authority figure and “rubber stamp” police testimony no matter how incredible it may seem. They typically seem to err on the side of caution and defer to the sworn statements of the officer. The thinking of these jurists might be along the line of “Why let an obviously guilty person go free?” Many others may feel that by deferring to the officer’s word they are preventing potential future crimes.

Gavel on court desk

Skillful Cross-Examination Can Expose the Falsehoods in Testimony of Police Officers

However skillful cross-examination of police witnesses combined with a strong presentation by the defense of conflicting evidence can make all the difference in the world when it comes to successfully suppressing illegally obtained evidence. This is especially so where the case is litigated before an “intellectually honest” judge/jurist who has no qualms in labeling police testimony as less than credible. Even where the jurist is of a mindset to rubber stamp the police testimony, all is still not lost. In situations like these, an adverse decision can be appealed after a conviction. The post-conviction appeal reviewed by a panel of appellate jurists who are generally considered to be more objective and more willing to question the testimony of authority figures.

Experienced and Strategic Attorney Obtains Suppression of Improperly Obtained Weapons Evidence

While past results do not guarantee a future result, Victor Knapp, Esq. has recently successfully litigated two weapon (loaded firearm) possession cases which hinged on the credibility of police witnesses. In both cases, the loaded firearm was found either on the defendant’s person or next to him while lying alone in bed. In both cases, the defendant /client was facing a minimum of jail sentence of three and one-half years if the court refused to suppress the physical evidence. In both cases, the court refused to “rubber stamp” the police testimony and, after analyzing all the testimony, held that the police versions were not worthy of belief and suppressed the recovered firearms.

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In one of the cases People v White Victor Knapp, Esq, counsel for defendant, raised questions of credibility regarding the police officer’s claim that responding to a 911 call, he was able to observe a gun protruding from the the defendant’s waistband.  Through a thorough and meticulous cross-examination of the police officer and presentation of defense witnesses, the court was convinced that the officer’s testimony was fabricated. Accordingly, the testimony that there was  an observable weapon was rejected thus leaving only an anonymous 911 call which was not legally sufficient to justify the police action of a forcible seizure and search of Mr. White. The weapon was suppressed and the case was dismissed by the trial court. The ruling was affirmed by the Appellate Division after the prosecution attempted to appeal the trial court’s ruling.

In another case, People v Jagdeo, Victor Knapp, Esq., counsel for the defendant, challenged police testimony to the effect that they were “invited” into his client’s home by a relative and “escorted” to his bedroom where he was asleep with a loaded firearm next to him. Through detailed cross-examination of these police witnesses which was contradicted by a strong presentation of defense witnesses whose testimony was supported by subpoenaed 911 tapes and photographs, the court rejected the police version and accepted the defense version and suppressed the loaded firearm. The case was thereafter dismissed.

DECISION-SUPPRESSION

Facing criminal charges can be an anxiety-filled time in your life. Depending on the charges that have been brought against you, you could face a lengthy prison sentence or fines. Because judges are likely to believe the word of a law enforcement officer, the worst thing that you can do is to remain passive throughout the process. Securing criminal defense representation for your assault, murder, robbery, burglary, weapons, DWI/DUI, domestic violence, or drug charges will ensure that your Constitutional rights will be respected and enforced throughout the criminal process. Victor Knapp fights for you to reduce or eliminate the charges you face. To determine if your case is a good fit, call Victor Knapp, Esq. today at (718) 263-9000 or contact us online.