When can evidence be found inadmissible?

On July 30th of this year, a Minnesota police officer was shot to death during a routine traffic stop. According to the Star Tribune, a 39-year-old man fled the scene and had a shootout with law enforcement, taking eight bullets. The man survived and is set to stand trial. His attorneys have requested that some of the evidence be suppressed, including statements that the defendant made while in the hospital.

There are state and federal rules that dictate when certain items may not be admissible in a Minnesota court. Understanding the guidelines can play an important role in someone’s defense.

Relevancy

The main factor that a judge will take into consideration when reviewing evidence is its relevancy to the case. The Minnesota Rules of Evidence state that when someone faces a criminal charge, the evidence brought against the defendant must have probative value. The law itself acknowledges that it takes a broad approach to the topic, which means that a number of items could be found relevant even if they are far-fetched.

It is possible for relevant evidence to be found inadmissible, however, in the following situations:

  • If the danger of unfair prejudice outweighs the value of the evidence
  • If the evidence could confuse issues
  • If the evidence could mislead the jury
  • If the evidence would cause undue delay

Aside from these factors, which a defense attorney can seek to prove at a pre-trial hearing, relevant evidence is typically admissible in court.

Other situations

The Federal Rules of Evidence outline a number of scenarios in which witnesses may not be able to testify due to incompetence or situations in which other evidence may be thrown out. For example, during a trial, the prosecution may try to present evidence regarding a defendant’s character in an attempt to prove an action, but this is generally inadmissible except under very specific circumstances. Additionally, a court will strike down hearsay evidence. Hearsay refers to statements made outside the courtroom that are put forth in an effort to prove a truth. In other words, it is a testimony in which the witness does not have direct knowledge of a fact.

Lastly, any evidence that is collected illegally is not permitted in court. In the case of the Minnesota police officer who was shot, the defendant’s attorneys argue that the statements law enforcement collected were taken prior to reading the man his rights.

Defendants have a right to a fair trial, which includes only admitting evidence that is relevant and accurate. Anyone with questions regarding this topic should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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