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Motions to Suppress: Getting Evidence Excluded

Brownstein Law Group, P.C. June 8, 2022

If you’re facing a criminal trial, you must know what to expect from beginning to end. This includes the pretrial process, including your arraignment, hearing, discovery process, and what to expect when the actual trial is underway. One of the most common issues defendants are concerned about is how evidence can and will be used against them and what kind of evidence will be admissible. Specifically, they wonder if certain evidence obtained illegally can be excluded from the trial. For questions you may have about the criminal court system, contact the Brownstein Law Group, P.C. in San Rafael, California. Here you can meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will thoroughly explain your options so you can make informed decisions about your future. Attorney Josh S. Brownstein is committed to providing aggressive yet realistic counsel and is able to serve those throughout the state, including Marin County, San Francisco, Novato, and Petaluma, California.

What Is a Motion to Suppress?

A motion to suppress is when a defendant (or their lawyer) requests that specific evidence in a trial is excluded. This often happens in the pretrial stage after the prosecution and defense have shared their evidence in the discovery process. The request must be made on the legal grounds that the evidence violates the defendant’s rights under federal, state, or county law. If the judge approves the request, the evidence cannot be used by either side and in some cases, it may be grounds to dismiss the case altogether. If you have requested a jury trial, the jury will have to disregard this evidence, and they will not be able to use it in the course of their deliberations. 

This is most often seen (but not always) in cases where evidence violates the Fourth Amendment. This amendment protects an individual from unreasonable searches and seizures, and if the evidence is obtained illegally, it cannot be used in a court of law. For example, if a law enforcement officer obtains evidence from a suspect’s home, but they did so without a search warrant or without probable cause, this evidence could be excluded from a trial. Police officers can often make mistakes in search-and-seizure cases like these, and unless you’re working with a skilled attorney who will contest it, this evidence can and will be used against you.

You may also file a motion to suppress if your Fifth Amendment rights were violated. This amendment ensures your right to not bear witness against yourself. If you are under arrest, officers are legally required to read you the Miranda warnings, which essentially lists your rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The officer must then check to see that you fully understand these rights. If these are not read to you, or if you did not understand them when they were read to you, any testimony that was given after this time may be inadmissible in court.

What Is the Process for Filing One?

The first step in filing a motion to suppress evidence is to establish the legal grounds that your request is being made. This is almost always done before the trial begins, but it can happen after the trial is underway. For example, there may be witness testimony that is given during the trial that the defense considers inadmissible and will seek to have it excluded. After this, your lawyer will make a formal request to the judge and decide to schedule an evidentiary hearing where both sides can present their legal reasoning for either keeping or excluding the evidence. After this, it will then be up to the judge to decide.

In almost all cases, your attorney should have clear legal reasoning for filing a motion to suppress, but in some cases, it can be used strategically even if the legal grounds are not 100% clear. This may allow your attorney to cross-examine the law enforcement officers whom the motion was filed against and gain detailed information that could be used later on in your defense.

How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Any criminal charges against you must be taken seriously as the potential consequences of a conviction can be far-reaching and devastating. You need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you avoid the pitfalls of inadequate representation. This is especially true when making a request for excluding evidence from the trial. To do this successfully, your lawyer must have a comprehensive understanding of the law and must be able to persuade the judge of their legal reasoning. If you have concerns about your upcoming criminal trial and would like to speak to an attorney, call the Brownstein Law Group, P.C. in San Rafael, California. Attorney Josh S. Brownstein serves clients in Marin County, San Francisco, Novato, and Petaluma, California.