Motion to Suppress
A Motion to Suppress is filed where your 4th or 5th Amendment Rights have been violated. A Motion to Suppress can be an effective tool at getting a case completely dropped or lowering the State’s offer in a difficult case. A good criminal defense lawyer is able to quickly and efficiently discuss your Motion to Suppress and have it filed and heard within a very short period of time.
What is a Motion to Suppress?
A motion to Suppress is a motion filed by the Defense that basically says, “such and such evidence should be thrown out because the evidence was obtained through an unlawful search or without proper constitutional safeguards.” If the Defense can prevail on a Motion to Suppress, and the evidence being suppressed is the very core of the case, then the case will likely be dropped. For example, in a cocaine possession case. If the Motion to Suppress asks the Court to suppress the cocaine evidence. A successful Motion to Suppress prevents the State from proving their case.
Thus they will drop the charges.
A Motion to Suppress is filed where the Defendant seeks to suppress physical evidence, observational evidence, or statements. The 4th Amendment is the basis of the unreasonable search/seizure doctrine. The 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation.” Therefore, where there is an unreasonable search or seizure, the Defense may file a Motion to Suppress. By filing a Motion to Suppress they are attempting to get all of relevant evidence thrown out.
Confessions Given Without Miranda
A motion to Suppress a Confession is allowed where there No Miranda Rights are given. This right not to be a witness against yourself is found in the 5th amendment. The 5th Amendment states, “nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Over the years the Courts have expanded on what it means to be a witness against yourself. As part of a constitutional safeguard, the Miranda requirements were born. Whether Miranda Warnings are required is a straight forward test: (a) were you in custody, and (b) were you being questioned. If yes to both, then Miranda Warnings must be given, otherwise any confession you make is inadmissible against you at trial.
Confession w/ Due Process Violation
A less common Motion to Suppress is found where the Defendant confesses but believes his Due Process Rights were violated at the time he confessed. These are less commonly seen and less commonly granted, but if it’s applicable this type of motion to suppress can be just as strong as other types of motion to suppress. The Due Process Motion to Suppress primarily looks at the police conduct. For example, where the police abandon police protocol, surround the Defendant and threaten him with serious injury if he doesn’t confess. This would likely fall under a Due Process argument to suppress any confessions garnered.
The longer a case plays out, the more the state becomes invested in the case. Also, there reaches a point where the judge may not want to give you an additional continuance. Arguing your Motion to Suppress during an actual jury trial is not where you ever want to be. Therefore, filing your motion to suppress quickly benefits the client because it allows for more preparation and it allows for arguing your motion to suppress at a pre-trial hearing rather than at an actual trial.
How does a Motion to Suppress Work?
- Every person is granted fundamental rights under the Constitution.
- One of those rights is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
- A motion to suppress works by attacking the search against a person’s Constitutional rights.
- The Federal Government has laid out groundwork for what the Constitutional rights entail.
- States must grant citizens at least the Federal rights; however, states are allowed to grant even more rights. No state is allowed to grant less rights than what the Federal Government has determined are the Constitutional Rights to be Free from an unreasonable search.
- A motion to Suppress challenges the legality of the search or the seizure of an individual.
- E.g. If a person was stopped illegally, then the fruits of that search can be excluded (under Exclusionary Rule) where the stop was illegally and unconstitutionally performed.
- In many instances, the De Facto Rule is that a warrant is required to perform a search.
- However, there are a vast number of exceptions to that rule.
- Each motion is different because each motion depends on different factors.
What can be excluded?
- Physical and Non-Physical Evidence Can be excluded.
- E.g. Physical Evidence: unlawful contraband like illicit drugs or drug pipe would be physical evidence that would be excludable with a successful motion to suppress.
- E.g. Non-physical Evidence: A police officers observations during a DUI or a Defendant’s confession would be examples of non-physical evidence that could be excludable.
Effect on Case:
- In many cases a successful motion means that the case is over. For example if the allegations are possession of marijuana, a successful motion to suppress would virtually be an automatic win in that case.
- However, there are instances where a successful motion is not the end of the story. For example, consider a case where there is sufficient evidence of a crime and in addition the police also receive a Defendant’s confession. If the Defendant’s confession is suppressed, the case will still move forward, albeit with less evidence against the Defendant.
In Sum, motion practice is an important part of any lawyer’s job. Make sure that you speak with a law firm that knows.