When you’re facing criminal charges in Columbia, South Carolina, you are in a frightening position. You may not know what the evidence is against you or what evidence is even admissible. You may not know how you’re going to defend yourself or get the best possible outcome in your case. It is important to speak with a Columbia, South Carolina criminal defense attorney to be completely aware of the various factors and laws that are relevant to your case, and to seek the best outcome. Today, we’ll put some of your concerns to rest by letting you know what the prosecution is not allowed to use against you and what the jury is not allowed to assume when you are charged with a crime.
The Prosecution Cannot Use Evidence or Confessions that Were Illegally Obtained
The police and investigators of criminal activity tend to be particularly cautious when it comes to making sure that none of the information they obtain is illegally gathered. This includes illegally obtained evidence, such as that which was searched for without a warrant, and illegally obtained confessions, such as anything said when you have not been informed of your rights. You may already be aware of this, and of course, you would be wise to invoke your right to remain silent. Yet, if there is any way that we can prove that certain evidence or comments were illegally obtained, then these can be thrown out.
The Prosecution Cannot Use the Testimony of Criminal Profiler Professionals
Anyone who watches television or movies has likely heard of a criminal profiler. These are the individuals who attempt to analyze your behavior, determine what you would have done or would do next, and establish exactly what type of criminal you or someone you care about might be. They do this by learning about cases that came before you, the types of people who committed past crimes, and what is known about their psychology and behaviors. Yet, the testimony from a criminal profiler has been ruled to be irrelevant and inadmissible in South Carolina courts. This is because their testimony frequently involves hypothetical situations and does not address the actual facts of your case. This can create a prejudice in the jury without adding any substantive and valid information.
This kind of testimony is considered to be purely speculative, and is considered to be something known as propensity evidence, which is not allowed. In other words, they may be able to testify that the accused has the propensity to commit a crime, but this does not contribute anything factual as to whether or not the person actually did commit the crime. The jury may be easily and unfairly swayed to believe that the accused is guilty, without factual cause to believe this. Furthermore, it has been, up to this time, quite common for a prosecutor to wish to use the testimony of a criminal profiler when they know that they don’t really have a very strong case with solid evidence.
The rules on this may change in the future, as the laws are forever being challenged and altered, and prosecutors will still wish to use such convincing testimony. Yet at this time, you do not have to worry too much about a criminal profiler testifying against you because you ‘might have’ been guilty due to your potential to commit such a crime, based on character traits and past cases.
The Jury Cannot Find You Guilty Based on Their Gut Instincts or Guesses
In 2016, there was a case that involved a man who was convicted of trafficking drugs. This conviction was reversed, however, because there was no actual proof, and the conviction relied on the jury making guesses about the man’s guilt. While the police had searched for the given drug (methamphetamine), they found nothing more than a medication package that had held the medication, pseudoephedrine, which is used to make this drug. Yet, the amount that they found was not enough for a conviction of trafficking methamphetamine. In this case there was a minimum requirement for the evidence, and that minimum was not produced by the prosecution. While the prosecution must have been convincing to get the conviction that they were after, the judge decided that without the necessary evidence, the conviction could not hold, and it was therefore reversed.
It is important to understand here that the conviction was partly brought about by the evidence produced by a forensic chemist who indicated that it was possible to produce a given amount of methamphetamine with the amount of pseudoephedrine that was found in the possession of the accused. Yet, this was not enough to prove that the man intended to produce methamphetamine or could have produced as much as they the forensic chemist indicated, despite the potential for doing so. Much like the use of criminal profiler testimony, this testimony was based on what the accused had the propensity or potential to do with the given evidence.
In reversing the conviction, a Supreme Court decision was made to ensure that all accused individuals can get a fair trial, without the use of speculative testimony to get the conviction. If any evidence or testimony requires the jury to base a decision on their gut instinct, based on that information, or to guess at what the accused may have done, then that testimony is inadmissible. The testimony that expresses a great suspicion is not the same as testimony that expresses factual points. In this case, it was found that the jury was forced to speculate on the ability of the accused to make the given amount of methamphetamine with the given amount of available pseudoephedrine. This further meant that they had to guess about how much methamphetamine the accused intended to make. None of these things were proven with factual evidence, only speculated about and guessed about. For this reason, the conviction was determined to have been based on an unfair trial which should have been avoided by a directed verdict (due to lack of evidence), and the conviction was overturned.
Learn More About Your Case with the Michael Jeffcoat Firm
If you are facing criminal charges in Columbia, South Carolina, and you have questions about your defense or need advice and representation, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Columbia, SC at the Michael Jeffcoat Firm to learn more.
Mr. Jeffcoat, a native of the Columbia area, founded the law firm in 1999. Mr. Jeffcoat got his undergraduate degree at Wofford College in 1994, majoring in Political Economy and Philosophy, and then went to the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he received his J.D. in 1997. After working in two law firms following his graduation from law school, Jeffcoat ventured out on his own to launch The Jeffcoat Firm in March of 1999.