The Importance of Motions to Suppress
In criminal proceedings, one of best ways to stop evidence from being admitted into trial is by successfully arguing a motion to suppress evidence. These types of pretrial motions are essential in many criminal matters because, if successful, the Commonwealth will typically be unable to continue with the prosecution of the case and will be forced to dismiss the charge or decide not to prosecute the matter.
Suppression begin as follows: First, the defense attorney gathers all of the mandatory discovery from the Commonwealth and may also file discovery motions ordering the Commonwealth to produce evidence it may not have otherwise disclosed. The defense attorney will then carefully review the entire discovery, looking for specific issues in the facts that may warrant suppression of the evidence. Frequently, suppression issues manifest in the form of 4th Amendment violations, which are violations of the right against unlawful searches and seizures, and 5th Amendment violations, which are violations of the right against self-incrimination.
If a motion to suppress is successfully argued, and a judge finds that your rights were violated, then all evidence obtained as a result of the unlawful government behavior will be suppressed and inadmissible at trial. The suppressed evidence is referred to as “fruits of the poisonous tree.”
What are Examples of 4th Amendment Violations?
Generally speaking, searches and seizures conducted without a warrant are unlawful and are a violation of one’s inalienable rights. 4th Amendment violations typically occur when police seize someone without the legal justification for doing so, that is, without a warrant or without probable cause. These violations also occur when police officers pat and frisk a suspect without legal justification.
There are, however, certain exceptions to the warrant requirement. If a police officer has a reasonable suspicion that a suspect is engaged in criminal activity, then the officer may seize the suspect for as long as reasonably necessary to confirm or dispel his reasonable suspicion. This is called a Terry Stop. To support reasonable suspicion, the officer must be able to articulate specific observations that would, when taken as a whole, lead a reasonable police officer to believe that criminal activity is afoot.
This is a low standard, but still requires a foundation. Frequently, police officers will seize a person they suspect of criminal activity merely on a hunch, which is illegal.
Furthermore, in order for the police to pat a suspect down, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is armed and dangerous.
What are Examples Of 5th Amendment Violations?
5th Amendment violations typically occur when police elicit incriminating statements without reading a suspect his or her Miranda Warnings.
In order for the Miranda requirement to apply, a suspect must be in police custody and be subjected to questions and/or conduct that is purposed to elicit incriminating responses. Examples of such questioning or conduct include: police questioning a suspect while the suspect is in the back of the cruiser, that are the product of police coercion, and conduct by the police that would cause a suspect to incriminate himself through statements.
If you have been arrested and suspect that police misconduct contributed to the discovery of incriminating evidence or statements, call Kelly & Soto Law. Our criminal defense attorneys will carefully review your case, discuss your recollection of the events, and examine the police report and any corresponding photos and evidence. Our attorneys are skilled in pinpointing suppression issues and will inform you if a motion to suppress is possible in your criminal matter.