‘Motion to Suppress’ Weakens the Prosecution’s Case
You are innocent until proven guilty in a criminal case, even if you know you are guilty.
A motion to suppress evidence is a request by the defense asking the judge disallow or ‘throw out’ specific evidence well in advance of trial. If the ‘motion to suppress’ is granted by the judge, the prosecution or judge may dismiss the entire case based on insufficient evidence to convict the defendant.
If the suppressed evidence is essential to prove the criminal charges against you, its suppression could result in criminal charges being dismissed.
Most Common Examples of Motions to Suppress
- Unlawful searches and seizures. Under the Fourth Amendment, you are protected against illegal searches of your home, your vehicle, your property, and yourself. In general, police must have probable cause (aka “in plain view”), a valid search or arrest warrant to stop, search, or arrest you.
- Coerced statements. If the police coerce you or another witness into making a statement or confessing, this may be grounds for suppression of this evidence. So if the police wrongly force you in anyway to confess to the crime, this confession would be considered not valid.
- Chain of custody errors. Evidence must be collected and stored according to strict rules and procedures. This is to ensure that it is not tampered with, mixed up, or lost. When the police mishandle the evidence or otherwise violate the rules, a motion to suppress that evidence can be filed, and it will not be admissible in court.
- DUI or Drug testing results. The tests carried out by the police as part of a DUI arrest or Drug Test are problematic, and can be challenged in many different ways. Field sobriety tests, breathalyzer tests, and testing machines are notoriously inaccurate.
- Miranda rights. When the police take you into custody, at some point they must inform you of your Miranda rights under the constitution before questioning. This includes being advised of the right to remain silent, that any statements can be used against you, and your right to an attorney. If they fail to give you these warnings and you incriminating yourself with statements, these statements can be suppressed. Alternatively, if they do read your Miranda rights, and you tell them you want to remain silent, yet they continue to question you, those statements can be suppressed
- Witness identification. The police may have violated your rights by improperly suggesting that the witness identify you. You should always have an attorney attend a ‘police lineup’ because sometimes they fail to include other suspects with a similar appearance. Unfair witness identification procedures can be challenged and thrown out of evidence with a motion to supress.
It’s important to note that any of the evidence that is successfully suppressed can be readmitted into court if an independent source provided the same evidence by a different way.
We’ve gone over some of the more common reasons to suppress evidence, but there are many more depending on the case details. As always, it’s best to consult a seasoned defense attorney about the specifics of your case.
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Seppi Esfandi is an expert in Criminal Law who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.