What is a Motion to Suppress?

What is a Motion to Suppress?

A Motion to Suppress is a motion filed prior to a criminal trial that seeks to exclude (get thrown out) evidence that was obtained by the State in violation of a Defendant’s constitutional rights.

What types of evidence would a Motion to Suppress seek to exclude?

A wide variety of evidence.  Common examples of this would include evidence discovered through a law enforcement search of a home or vehicle, the pat-down of a person,  a body-cavity search, photographic lineups used for witness identification, and the product of police interrogation.

Do I have a right to have a jury decide a Motion to Suppress?

No.  A Motion to Suppress Evidence is a legal issue that must be decided by the trial judge.  It is determined prior to a trial, before a jury is seated.

Why should my lawyer file a Motion to Suppress?

If the State’s case rests on a certain piece of evidence – whether that evidence is a physical piece of evidence (i.e., contraband) or the Defendant’s own statements – and there is a concern that the evidence was obtained in violation of the Defendant’s rights, then a Motion to Suppress Evidence is the only mechanism from preventing that evidence from being introduced at the trial of the matter.  Ohio law requires that Motions regarding the suppression of evidence to be filed and heard prior to trial.

How much work does it take to pursue a Motion to Suppress?

Oftentimes, a Motion to Suppress can be quite time-consuming.  A well-researched Motion must be filed, specifying the purported constitutional violation(s) and the legal basis as to why the specific piece of evidence should be suppressed.  A formal hearing is held in which law enforcement officers testify regarding how the evidence was obtained.  If the issues involved are rather straight-forward, the trial judge may render a verbal decision from the bench, or may take the matter under advisement and render a written decision.  In other, more complicated cases, the judge may order that legal briefs be filed after the hearing.  In that case, a written transcript of the testimony must be ordered.  The defense attorney will then file a detailed brief, citing witness testimony from the transcript, as well as legal research on the applicable law.  The prosecutor will then have the opportunity to file a brief in opposition.  The defense will then get the opportunity to file a rebuttal brief to that filed by the prosecutor.  After all the briefs have been filed, the judge will review the briefs and file a written decision.  In all, it is not uncommon for a Motion to Suppress to take around two months to hear and decide.

What happens if the Motion to Suppress is granted?

It depends on the type of evidence that is suppressed and whether the State can still prove the allegations without that type of evidence.  If it is impossible for the State to prove the allegations without that critical piece of evidence, the prosecutor may dismiss the charges.  If the prosecutor disagrees with the judge’s decision, the prosecutor may elect to file an appeal regarding the judge’s decision.

What happens if the Motion to Suppress is denied?

If it is denied, then the evidence comes in (and can be used) at trial.  If the Defendant elects to enter a plea and get the case over with, then he/she must pled “no contest” to preserve the issue for appeal.  Otherwise, an appeal of the judge’s decision on the Motion to Suppress cannot be filed until after the trial has concluded.

Should my lawyer file a Motion to Suppress in my case?

There are many factors as to whether or not the filing of a Motion to Suppress is the best course of action in a given case.  It is advisable to meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with the particular court and discuss the pros and cons.  In some jurisdictions, the courts and prosecutors accept the Motion to Suppress as a necessary step in ensuring that a Defendant has a fair opportunity to assert his/her rights.  In other jurisdictions, the prosecutor may withdraw any favorable plea offers if a Motion to Suppress is filed.  Thus, the filing of a Motion to Suppress is an important phase of the criminal process and much thought should be given as to whether it is advisable in your particular case.

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