If you have been charged with a criminal offense but you believe law enforcement obtained evidence through illegal means, the evidence could be deemed inadmissible in court through a motion to suppress. This motion is a request made by a defendant, asking the judge to exclude specific evidence from trial.
A motion to suppress may be granted if the evidence was unlawfully collected by the following:
- Through an unreasonable search and seizure that was committed without a warrant
- Through a police search performed with a warrant, but the warrant was invalid, the warrant lacked probable cause, the evidence gathered wasn’t mentioned on the warrant, or the search violated the defendant’s constitutional rights.
If a search was performed without a warrant, then it is presumed to have been unlawful, meaning the prosecutor must prove that the search was reasonable. On the other hand, if a search was performed with a warrant, the presumption is that the search was legal, which means the defendant must prove that it wasn’t.
No matter which side bears the burden of proof, the judge’s decision is based on the “preponderance of evidence,” which is a lower legal standard compared to “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The arguing party must show that the search is more like than not reasonable or unreasonable.
Keep in mind, a defendant must prove that they had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” before filing a motion to suppress. Reasonable expectation of privacy can be found in your home, your car, or even your cellphone contents.
Additionally, a motion to suppress may also apply to “derivative” evidence, which is considered other types of evidence indirectly collected due to an unlawful search. The legal theory used is the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine since such lawfully obtained evidence may not have been known if it wasn’t for an illegal search.
A motion to suppress is filed either during the preliminary hearing or at another pretrial hearing. If the judge grants the motion, then the prosecutor is not allowed to introduce the evidence in question in court.
In many cases, without key evidence to prove a defendant’s guilt, the case can be dismissed entirely, or the plea bargain agreement will become more favorable for the defendant. That is why hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney can help determine all available legal options.
If you have been charged with a crime in Santa Rosa, contact the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C.today at (707) 418-5352 and request a free case review.