Constitutional Issues in Prince William Criminal Cases

Many Prince William County criminal cases have constitutional issues that pop up. In many cases, there are searches done whether that search is done of a person or of a car or of a home. The following are examples of constitutional issues that may arise according to a Prince William County criminal lawyer.

Fourth and Fifth Amendments

The Fourth Amendment has restrictions on what the police can do. Thus, if a person or a car or a home is searched, then the attorney needs to look at the basis for that search, whether a warrant was obtained, and if not, whether that search meets any of the exceptions to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment.

Similarly, there are Fifth Amendment concerns, primarily the right to remain silent. That has been interpreted by the courts to mean that a person need not answer any questions by the police and if you are being interrogated while you’re in custody, then you have the absolute right to be advised of your rights under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

So, if a statement is made by the accused person to a police officer, then the attorney needs to look at the conditions that were present during that statement. If a person was in custody and they were being interrogated and was not properly advised of their rights under the Fifth Amendment and they did not expressly waived those rights under the Fifth Amendment, then that statement ought to be excluded.

Confrontation of Witnesses

Another constitutional issue that comes up very often is the right of confrontation of witnesses. That is in the Sixth Amendment. The Sixth Amendment says that you have the right to confront and cross examine all witnesses against you. How that pops up in Prince William County criminal cases is in cases where there are drugs that are being accused of either distributed or possessed. The government needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs were in fact illegal drugs and to do that, they will send them off to state laboratory.

They cannot just admit the certificate of analysis from the state laboratory any more. They now have to actually present the person who did the analysis to testify about the methodologies that were used and the things that indicated that this particular substance was in fact what they are saying it is. If that person is not able to be in court for whatever reason, then a savvy defense attorney can argue that the certificate of analysis is inadmissible because he lacks the ability to cross examine the person who created it.