If you have been charged with committing a crime, you must raise all possible defenses you can and take any other helpful steps to fight the charges against you. You have too much at stake not to. One way to do this is to file a motion to suppress evidence. This can be an extremely useful strategy in your criminal defense. However, you cannot expect to successfully file these motions on your own. You will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What Is a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
A motion to suppress evidence asks the judge not to allow certain evidence to be used against you by the prosecutor in your criminal case. In criminal cases, the police and prosecutors are not allowed to use evidence against you that was illegally obtained. This is known as the Exclusionary Rule and ensures that your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful searches and seizures and other constitutional rights are not violated.
Another helpful doctrine that also can result in the suppression of evidence is the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. Under this legal theory, evidence that would be otherwise admissible would be excluded if it was obtained through the violation of your constitutional rights. For example, a suspect may confess to a crime and tell the police where the murder weapon is. However, if the police did not inform him of his Miranda rights when required to or continued to question him after he asked for an attorney, the confession and the murder weapon may be suppressed and not allowed to be used against the suspect.
What Are Common Grounds to File a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
Even if you know you are guilty of the charges, you can file a motion to suppress evidence if you have proper grounds to do so. If the evidence is important enough to the police’s case against you, the charges against you may be dismissed. When the evidence is suppressed, but the case against you continues, you may have significantly weakened the prosecutor’s case, which could result in a favorable outcome down the road. Common grounds to file a motion to suppress include:
- Unlawful search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment protects you against unlawful search and seizure of your property and yourself. The police must have a valid search warrant or arrest warrant or probable cause to believe a crime was committed in order to stop you and search for evidence. If evidence was illegally obtained, it cannot be used against you.
- Failure to give Miranda warnings. When the police take you into custody, they are required to inform you of your Miranda rights. This includes informing you of your right to remain silent, that anything you say can be used against you, and that you have a right to an attorney. If the police fail to give you this warning, any statements or confession you made or other evidence the police obtained due to this failure could be suppressed.
- Chain of custody errors. Chain of custody refers to the proper procedures the police must use in handling pieces of evidence from the moment it is collected until it is used at trial. For example, if evidence is mislabeled or mixed with evidence in another case, it could lose its credibility and not be admissible in your criminal court hearings.
There are other reasons that your attorney may decide to file a motion to suppress evidence. Other common grounds for these motions include:
- Field sobriety tests were not administered according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards as required under the law.
- DUI or drug test evidence was compromised in its testing, handling, labeling, transport, or storage.
- Breathalyzer tests were inaccurate or the testing device was not maintained properly or malfunctioned.
- The search warrant was invalid or was not specific enough.
- Independent expert witness testimony raises reasonable doubts about a certain piece of evidence.
- Evidence was acquired in another unconstitutional fashion.
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be trained to spot the constitutional grounds that can be used successfully file a motion to suppress evidence. These motions often involve complex constitutional issues, and you want an attorney who has experience filing and arguing them on your side. If you have been arrested, call our Fairfax law office today to schedule a free consultation to learn how our legal team can help build your defense and fight the charges you face.