Dismissal of Evidence in DC Domestic Violence Cases

Not every type of evidence is admissible in domestic violence cases. Some evidence can be considered hearsay, some evidence may have been illegally obtained in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights, and some evidence may not be admissible because they are not consistent with the Washington, DC rules of evidence. In the event that the prosecutors seek to introduce evidence that may not be admissible, an experienced criminal attorney can file motions with the judge, asking a judge to rule certain kinds of domestic violence evidence inadmissible. It may be critical to speak with an attorney about opportunities for dismissal of evidence DC domestic violence cases. 

Motion to Suppress Evidence

These are called motions to suppress evidence. For example, if a prosecutor wants to claim that a defendant made certain incriminating statements to police officers and the prosecutor wants to admit those statements at trial, then a defense attorney needs to figure out whether the prosecutors obtained those statements lawfully, and each defendant has certain constitutional rights to not be required to make statements that could be used to incriminate them.

Rights of an Individual

In some situations, a defendant has certain rights to be informed of including their right to remain silent and not answer questions from police officers. If they are not informed of those rights which are commonly referred to as Miranda rights, then the defendant’s statements made in response to questions from police officers may be suppressed. 

A defense attorney needs to know what the rules are on Miranda warnings, whether they are required to be read to a defendant and in what circumstances are a defendant’s statements suppressible because that defendant was not properly advised of their Miranda rights.

Not being read the Miranda warning is not necessarily a guarantee of dismissal of evidence DC domestic violence cases. However, it could require a prosecutor to either get statements in a way that it is consistent with their constitutional requirements or be prohibited from introducing those statements. This is one way, out of many ways, that a defense attorney can ensure that a person’s rights are protected.

Actions to Dismiss Evidence

DC’s constitutional rules and procedures do not permit a prosecutor to simply call any witness they would like to call. Witnesses must have relevant testimony that is permissible to prove that a defendant committed an alleged crime, but prosecutors cannot call witnesses purely for the purpose of claiming that a defendant has a violent past or is of bad character, and prosecutors cannot call witnesses to testify to things they heard from other people or rumors that they heard from other people.

Prosecution Rules

Prosecutors are required to follow certain procedural rules if they would like to have witnesses testify. DC rules state that prosecutors are not required to disclose the witness list to defense attorneys so a defense attorney may not even know until the date of trial what witnesses a prosecutor is planning on calling. However, if a prosecutor is going to call a certain witness, then a prosecutor is required to turn over to the defense any written or recorded statements made by that witness that are related to the matter at hand. This is called a Jencks requirement.

Understanding Jencks Requirements

Jencks requirements are very important to defense attorneys because knowing the substance of statements made by witnesses is essential to see if witnesses have changed their version of events over time or made statements that are false in the past, and being able to confront witnesses with their own prior statements is relevant for showing that a prosecutor or a prosecutorial witness may not be reliable or may not be credible.

These kinds of procedural rules also serve to protect a defendant because they allow the defense to fully examine a witness’ biases or inconsistencies and have those factors come to light so a judge can use that information to determine whether a witness might be credible or not credible. If prosecutors do not follow these procedural requirements, then they are effectively denying the defense a chance at a fair trial.    

In the event that prosecutors do not follow these requirements, then defense attorneys can make arguments to have witness testimony thrown out of evidence and request that their testimony be stricken because their testimony is not consistent with the rules of fairness and due process that every defendant is entitled. This is another way dismissal of evidence DC domestic violence cases can occur.