Let us say you are under investigation for involvement in drug trafficking activities and you believe law enforcement officers will attempt to conduct a search of your home.
What happens now? What are the next steps in gathering evidence?
The rules vary
The gathering of evidence has many facets that depend on who is doing the gathering. Law enforcement officers must follow laws that relate to the prosecution of an offense while attorneys use the process of discovery to gather evidence for a civil or criminal case.
The law enforcement process
If law enforcement suspects you of a crime such as drug trafficking, a police officer must first obtain a search warrant to look for evidence believed to be inside your home. To do so, he or she must go to court and show probable cause that a crime was committed. If the officer convinces the judge that evidence exists, the judge will issue the search warrant. Keep in mind that the warrant applies only to this specific matter, but the evidence collected can include physical proof and electronic information, such as emails and cellphone records.
Law enforcement officers must follow standard procedures. For example, they should take photos of the crime scene—in this case, the kitchen in your home where they found drugs—and use tools to place the evidence into sterile containers for transport to the appropriate person for further examination and testing.
Rules for attorneys
Although your legal team may also want to examine your kitchen for evidence, they may focus on subpoenas compelling the testimony under oath of certain people related to the drug trafficking matter. They could also issue interrogatories, written questions that interview subjects can answer in writing under oath. The legal team for the defense will likely also ask the prosecution for a list of evidence.
Whether a law officer or an attorney gathers evidence, the effort must proceed meticulously according to the established rules. For example, the rules in the drug trafficking charge against you must be followed to the letter. If not, the court may throw out the evidence collected, thereby affecting the outcome to your case.