How is a Motion to Suppress Used by the Defense?

Motion to Suppress

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A motion to suppress is filed by your attorney. It is legal document which alleges that evidence relied upon by the State was obtained illegally and should not be used by the prosecutor in their case in chief. The filing of such a motion shifts the burden to the State to prove that police officers did not violate their client’s constitutional rights. Failure by the State to meet this burden will render that evidence inadmissible. This means that the State will not be able to present such evidence in their case in chief and will quite literally have to ignore or pretend that it never existed. A successful motion to suppress can severely weaken the State’s case and often leads to a voluntary dismissal of the charges by the Assistant State Attorney.

Under the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, counsel for defendant unjustly subjected to an unlawful search and seizure may ask the court to suppress evidence obtained during such an act.  A request for suppression of such evidence may be valid, on the ground that (a) the property was taken illegally and with no warrant, (b) there was insufficient evidence for the granting of a warrant in the first place, (c) the property specified in the warrant is not the same as the property seized, (d) insufficient reason to believe the existence of the grounds on which the warrant was issued, or (e) the warrant was illegally executed.

In most criminal cases searches are done absent a warrant opening up many type procedural guidelines that must be followed by officers who are not experienced in constitutional law. The lack of knowledge in this very technical area even by veteran police officers leads to much evidence being suppressed in court. A skilled criminal defense attorney will be able to spot issues that must be asserted on your behalf. A thorough investigation of all the facts surrounding an individual’s arrest must be analyzed so that a tactical and effective motion may be filed and argued in court.

A motion to suppress is perhaps one of the most valuable tools in a criminal defense attorney’s arsenal. When prepared, filed and argued by a qualified criminal defense attorney, the burden of the lawfulness and validity of a police officer’s actions must then be proven by the State Attorney’s office. This places tremendous responsibility on both the State Attorney and police officers involved in the investigation and arrest of the defendant. Failure to file an adequate motion to suppress on the other hand, allows all evidence to come in against a defendant without their ever knowing that it could have been excluded altogether.

A motion to suppress evidence creates issues that are to be determined solely by the trial court (a judge). Once these determinations are made, then a case may proceed to trial on the merits before a jury. It is the jury’s job to evaluate the weight and creditability and testimony and evidence presented to them and not issues of law. Suppressible issues should always be brought to the court’s attention via a proper motion long before a trial on the merits is undertaken.

The legal reasons to suppress evidence as well as the certain types of evidence that may be suppressed are endless and can be very complicated for even the most skilled of attorneys. The most common form of illegally obtained evidence which is widely known to the public due to countless law-based television shows is that of an officer’s obligation to read a suspect his right to remain silent upon being arrested. Once an individual is placed under arrest they must be read their rights prior to being questioned by law enforcement. They must be advised of their right to an attorney and informed that they do not have to answer any questions by police. Once an individual is placed in custody, he cannot be questioned absent their first being read their rights. If rights are not read, any admissions or confessions following the illegal questioning will be excluded from the prosecutor’s arsenal of evidence.

Our constitutional rights are very complex and constantly changing. Every day new case law in the State of Florida is reported which further defines our rights as citizens. Knowing all of one’s rights would be impossible and requires research by even the most skilled legal scholar. In contrast, law enforcement officers who are trained in seeking out crime and who have very little legal experience often make mistakes in their collection of evidence. Individual’s rights are violated every day by law enforcement whether it be intentional or unintentional. When this type of activity happens it is incumbent on a skilled defense attorney to insure that such evidence obtained in violation of one’s constitutional rights be removed from the prosecutor’s case in chief.

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