Guilmette v. State: On Motions to Suppress DNA Evidence

Tags: Criminal Defense

Our Birmingham murder defense attorneys understand the importance of filing a motion to suppress evidence in many cases.

In Guilmette v. State, an appeal from the Indiana Supreme Court, Defendant and his co-worker were visiting with their boss at his home. Just after midnight, their boss took a sleeping pill and went to bed in another room. His door was closed, and his ceiling fan was on the highest setting.

Thereafter, Defendant’s co-worker went to sleep in a guest bedroom. While both men were sleeping, court records reflect that Defendant stole his co-worker’s car keys and around $300 in cash. Defendant is also alleged to have taken the stolen car to two big discount stores, where he stole various items from the stores. He then returned the car to his boss’ home, left the car there, and went back to his home.

Later that day, Defendant’s boss discovered the dead body of the co-worker. The autopsy revealed that the decedent had suffered numerous blows to his head from a blunt object approximate to the size and shape of a baseball bat.

That same day, police went to question Defendant about the murder of his co-worker. Defendant denied that he had anything to do with the murder, and claimed that he had ridden a bicycle to the stores from which he was accused of stealing merchandise.

Police interviewed Defendant again, and, this time, showed him store surveillance footage of him driving the decedent’s automobile. He admitted to taking the victim’s money and car keys after seeing the video. The police charged Defendant with two counts of theft. According to routine booking procedures, police took possession of the defendant’s clothing, shoes, and personal items.

During an inspection of Defendant’s shoes, they notice what they believed to be blood on one of the laces. The police had the substance tested for DNA, and it matched the victim. Defendant was then charged with the murder of his co-worker.

Prior to trial, Defendant, though his criminal defense attorney, filed a motion to supress the DNA evidence on grounds that the police did not have a warrant to test his shoes. The trial court denied his motion, and Defendant was later convicted and sentenced to 92 years in a state prison.

On appeal, the court looked at the issue of whether the police properly obtained the DNA evidence, or if this constituted a violation of Defendant’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The appellate court held that the evidence was properly obtained by the police. Its main reason for such finding was that the shoes were obtained in accordance with standard booking procedures during the crime of theft for which they had a confession, let alone, probable cause. Once the shoes were in the rightful possession of the police, they did not need a warrant to further inspect what was already in their custody.

Police tend to collect a great deal of evidence as a result of their booking process, and they justify the need for inspections by having policies that provide for such inspections. They typically claim that these policies exist to safeguard the personal property of those arrested from theft.

If you are facing criminal charges in Alabama, contact Alabama Criminal Lawyers at (205) 994-0616 or use our online contact form.

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