Motion to Suppress Evidence for Drug Charges
I do a lot of work defending individuals charged with both
drug possession and
drug delivery. How do we go about defending those people? What works and why? The 4th Amendment to the Constitution protects each of us from unreasonable search
and seizures. One of the key weapons in the defense attorneys arsenal is the
Motion to Suppress Evidence. Too often attorneys neglect this tool often due to a lack of knowledge.
Contact our team today for a FREE consultaiton.
What is Motion to Suppress?
motion to suppress evidence is a motion that asks the Judge to determine the legality of the search
and seizure of the evidence (drugs). If the Judge finds the evidence (drugs)
where discovered in an illegal search then the evidence is "thrown
out" or excluded from the trial. Without the drugs being admitted
it is impossible to prove possession or delivery. So if we win the suppression
hearing, we win. The prosecution may appeal, or they may just dismiss
the case but they need to have the drugs admitted into evidence.
Motion to Suppress Evidence: Illegal Search and Seizure
The first thing that must be done is that the facts surrounding the discovery
of the drugs must be examined in detail.
Ask the following questions about the drug discovery:
- How did police come in contact with our client?
- If they stopped him did they have a legal reason to do so?
- Was there a search warrant?
- How did the police search the location?
- What was the legal justification for the search?
- Was there probable cause to issue a search warrant?
Most often the search is a warrantless search of an automobile that has
been stopped for some type of traffic violation. The second common scenario
is a search warrant served on a home that is suspected of being used in
Next we look at the actual seizure of the drugs.
- Where were they transported and how were they stored?
- Can the Police establish the chain of custody (explain everyone that handled
- Was there any chance the drugs became contaminated?
- How were they tested, can the police prove that it is what they say it is?
- How were they weighed and is it accurate?
In identifying suppression issues the attorney needs an in depth knowledge
of both police procedure and current case law. The case law is how courts
have determined in other similar cases how to apply the law to protect
your rights. Judges use decisions by other Judges on which to base their
Motion to Suppress Hearing
Many Judges will hold a hearing several weeks before the trial. Some will
hold it immediately before the trial. In most cases the initial burden
is on the Defense to show that the arrest was done without a search warrant.
In most cases the State will stipulate to this fact. Then the burden is
on the State to prove there was probable cause for the search. They do
this by having the police officers testify.
Getting a chance to cross-examine the police officers before the trial
is a huge opportunity for the defense in that it gets the opportunity
to lock in the officer's testimony and find their weakness for later
use at trial. The focus of the questioning is to show the errors the officers
may have made, and how the facts indicate the search was done illegally.
At the end of the hearing the Judge will hear the arguments, from both
attorney's and often time review the case law provided by them. He
will then make a decision.
Motion to Suppress Granted
If the motion to suppress is granted then the evidence is excluded. The
State must then decide to appeal or not. An appeal is an uphill battle
for the losing side, because the Appeals Courts give the Trial Judge a
lot of desecration and far less than 10% of all appeals overturn the original
decision. In most cases the State will dismiss the charges for insufficient
evidence and the defendant if free.
Motion to Suppress Denied
If the motion to suppress is denied, the Judge will find that the evidence
can be submitted to the jury. The defendant still has the right to have
a jury decide his guilt or innocence. He may also ask the jury to determine
the legality of the search. In addition the defendant now has an issue
to appeal the Judge's decision in denying the motion to suppress,
and maybe just maybe a higher court will overturn the decision.
The Bottom Line
If the defense wins the motion to suppress it is most often the death of
the State's case. If the defense loses than they live to fight another
day at trial, and another day on appeal.
If you would like to pursue a motion to suppress, contact us today for a