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What is meant by Motion to Suppress Evidence?

motion to suppress evidence

A motion to suppress focuses on keeping certain types of evidence out of court. It is an appeal made by a criminal defendant to the court before a criminal trial, asking the court to exclude particular evidence from the trial. Motions to suppress evidence must follow Rule 41(h) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in federal courts.

The United States Constitution, a state constitution, or a specific provision that enables the exclusion of such evidence must be cited as the proposed basis for the exclusion. A motion in limine is the more frequent name for a pre-trial request to exclude evidence based on the rules of evidence. 

The ‘Exclusionary rule’ based on the Fourth Amendment shields people against wrongful searches and seizures and prevents evidence violating a defendant’s constitutional rights from being used in court. The “exclusionary rule” is the foundation for the motion to suppress the evidence. 

Submission of the motion to suppress evidence

A motion to suppress evidence must get submitted following the rules before the omnibus hearing. An omnibus hearing serves as a pretrial hearing, and it typically takes place immediately after a defendant has been prosecuted. The major goal of the hearing is to evaluate the evidence, including any testimony and evidence taken into custody.

However, the time may get extended if fresh evidence is revealed later, following the omnibus hearing. A person always has the option to examine and object to new evidence.


Grounds to submit a motion for excluding evidence

The following are the legal grounds for suppressing evidence:

  1. Unjustified search conducted without a warrant

Evidence that police officials collected during an unlawful search that was conducted without a warrant is usually the reason the evidence is suppressed. The Fourth Amendment forbids unreasonable searches and seizures, and several state constitutions also prohibit them. 

Any evidence discovered by police breaching the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights will not be used in court. So, such evidence may be subject to a motion to suppress filed by the suspect.

  1. Violation of a person’s right to a lawyer

Criminal defendants are guaranteed the services of a lawyer by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. When a formal charge is brought against a defendant or law enforcement moves from an inquiry to an allegation, the defendant has the right to legal representation.

If a suspect has a right to a lawyer and exercises it while being questioned, police must give them access to a lawyer. The invocation of the right to a lawyer needs to be unambiguous. If the defendant is not given the right to a lawyer, the evidence can be suppressed.

  1. Miranda rights violation

The Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution grant all criminal suspects the Miranda right, which gives them the right to be informed of their civil rights. Per case law, police must warn suspects of certain rights before a custodial interrogation. It is referred to as “Mirandizing” a suspect. Information gathered during a suspect’s interrogation while being held captive may be suppressed if they have not been Mirandized.

Can a confession be suppressed?

The law defines a confession as knowledgeable if it was not voluntary and can get suppressed if the subject knew what they were doing. Whether it was voluntary or knowledgeable, the question is whether the subject was aware that they were being questioned and were aware that they had the option not to respond. 

A confession may get invalidated if the subject was detained during the investigation and not informed of those facts. Some people claim that they did not have their Miranda Rights when arrested, and they want the charges against them dropped as a result. 

However, the law does not oblige the police to read the suspect’s Miranda rights as soon as he is taken into custody, but if they intend to question him while he is in detention, they must read him his civil rights first. 

A person must be subjected to both interrogation and detention. If one of those elements is missing, it is unlikely that the charges or the confession will get dismissed in a hearing on a suppression motion.


Can illegally obtained evidence get suppressed?

A criminal defense lawyer will examine the facts to establish whether the evidence was unlawfully collected and infringed upon the defendant’s constitutional rights when police take it as a result of a search warrant, an arrest, or other forms of detention.

The counsel may submit a motion to suppress evidence under Penal Code 1538.5 if there is any credibility to this claim. The trial outcome cannot be determined by evidence collected by violating the defendant’s rights. The evidence which is obtained illegally can be used:  

  • Against any other individual whose rights were not infringed upon by the unauthorized search
  • Where the government can demonstrate that the proof would have been found legitimately and ineluctably anyhow
  • Where the law or warrant is later found to be illegal, the officers who carried out the investigation did so in good faith and reasonably relied on its constitutionality.
  • If the evidence was gathered after the first illegal search and is now sufficiently attenuated or distanced from that period that suppression would no longer serve as a deterrence.
  • To reduce the defendant’s credibility if they provide testimony during the trial.

In a Motion to Suppress hearing, who bears the burden of proof?

The burden of proof for a warrantless search falls on the prosecution as it is assumed to be unlawful.

The burden of establishing that the evidence was wrongfully collected shifts to the defense if the search was conducted following a warrant.


What kind of evidence can be excluded?

Many different types of evidence might be executed from being offered and heard in trial. These consist of:

  • Confession
  • Observations from a wrongful wiretap
  • Results of blood alcohol contents
  • Blood test results indicating the presence of controlled substances
  • Other scientific test results
  • Drug
  • Financial statements
  • Photographs
  • Testimony of witnesses
  • Audio files
  • written assertions
  • The weapon reportedly used in a crime

Factor determined by a Judge to grant a motion to suppress

When determining whether to grant a motion to suppress or deny it, the court considers several criteria, and the factors vary depending on the nature of the challenge. The facts surrounding the search or seizure should be taken into account if a search and seizure violation is contested and if there is an exemption to the general rule that a warrant is required. If there is a due process challenge, the court will weigh fairness against the facts of the case to determine if they are consistent.

Conclusion 

A defendant might ask the judge to exclude particular evidence from the trial by filing a motion to suppress evidence. The defense frequently files this motion before the scheduled trial; if successful, the judge or prosecution may be forced to drop the case. Depending on the significance of the evidence to the prosecution’s case, a dismissal may or may not be warranted.

In Fourth Amendment search and seizure situations, motions to suppress evidence are the most prominent. Defendants may also submit them in other situations, such as eyewitness identification. A defendant may claim that the identification process was unfair enough for the judge to forbid the prosecution from bringing up its findings during the trial.

FAQs

What happens if a motion to suppress evidence is approved?

A criminal defense attorney will have more negotiating power with the prosecutor once a motion to suppress is approved, resulting in a more advantageous plea bargain.
The State could withdraw the charges, or the jury might find the defendant not guilty in response to a successful petition to suppress.

Most requests to suppress are based on what legal grounds?

The “exclusionary rule” is the foundation for the motion to suppress ideas. The Fourth Amendment-based exclusionary rule shields people against wrongful searches and seizures and prevents evidence gathered in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights from being used in court.

What kind of evidence is omitted?

Evidence gathered illegally is omitted. For example, evidence was seized without justification and violated your Fourth Amendment rights during an illegal traffic stop or arrest.

What kind of evidence is prohibited from being used in court?

Hearsay testimony is mostly inadmissible unless it qualifies for an exception or exclusion outlined in the Federal Rules, a federal law, or a Supreme Court ruling.