In most television and movie courtroom dramas, the trial takes center stage. And while a trial can be an effective means of winning a case, trial is the last step in the process. Before a trial, effective pretrial motions can result in a dismissal or a reduction of the charges, depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. Below are some effective pretrial motions that may be made in a given case.
Motion to Dismiss Based on an Illegal Stop of the Car
Under the United States Constitution, as well as the Georgia Constitution, citizens have a right to be free from unreasonable seizures. This means, in part, that police cannot simply stop someone's car just because they don't like the person's bumper stickers, they don't like the person's car, or they don't like the look of the driver. Instead, police must have probable cause to stop a car. This is true even if it is just after bar closing time and a person is observed leaving the parking lot of a local drinking establishment.
“Probable cause” to stop a car most often (but not always) stems from unlawful driving conduct. This can include things such as
- Weaving over the fog line or the center line,
- Driving significantly under the speed limit, and/or
- Driving on the wrong side of the road or the wrong way down a one-way street.
In each criminal case involving driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) as well as in civil implied consent cases, the first question a DUI attorney should ask is, “What is the basis for the stop?” If there is no basis for the stop of a car, a pretrial motion to dismiss based on a lack of probable cause should be filed with the court. If the stop is thrown out, the charges are also necessarily dismissed.
Motion to Dismiss Based on an Illegal Extension of the Stop
Sometimes, the original stop of a car is legal and based on probable cause. However, if police stop a car due to speeding, for example, this does not give police license to extend the stop beyond the original purpose of the stop. Police are not entitled to simply stop cars for violations of driving conduct and then extend the detention beyond that purpose without additional facts – also known as additional probable cause.
For example, in many cases, a person is pulled over for poor driving conduct, and, upon approaching the driver, the police observe things such as the odor of alcohol or the odor of marijuana coming from the car. They may notice the driver has difficulty obtaining and hanging on to their license or proof of insurance. The police may hear slurred speech or difficulty following instructions. These may provide additional probable cause to expand the original detention and allow police to proceed with investigative techniques such as field sobriety tests. However, if there is no indication of intoxication or being under the influence of drugs, police cannot simply demand a breath test or order a person to participate in field sobriety testing. In this case, expanding the search can be a basis for a pretrial motion to suppress the fruits of the search, as the search was illegally expanded beyond the permissible scope.
Motion to Suppress Certain Statements Made by the Defendant
In addition to Constitutional mandates regarding the stop of one's car, the United States and Georgia Constitutions also afford citizens the right to be free from self-incrimination. Before being questioned by police, if someone is in custody they must be given a Miranda Warning. In other words, they must be told of their Constitutional right to remain silent and cautioned that if they do choose to speak to police, anything they say can, and will, be used against them in a court of law. Further, the law requires people to be told they have a right to an attorney. That attorney can be present before any questioning begins.
If someone is interrogated while in custody, and if no Miranda Warning has been given, this can result in a pretrial hearing wherein the admissibility of the statement is litigated. In this situation, a judge determines first if the statement was Constitutionally obtained. If it was not, the statement can be suppressed. At that point, the court must perform an analysis to determine what evidence, beyond the words of the statement, may also be suppressed. Any evidence discovered as a result of the illegally obtained statement is typically suppressed as “fruit of the poisonous tree.”
Motion to Suppress Evidence as a Result of an Illegal Seizure
The Fourth Amendment protects both against unreasonable searches and unreasonable seizures. As with the stop of one's car, a search and subsequent seizure of evidence must be based on probable cause. Imagine a situation where one is pulled over for speeding. Without any additional information, police decide to search the car. Upon searching the car, they discover evidence, such as an open container of alcohol or prescription drugs. Searches and seizures must be legally justified for the evidence obtained from the search and seizure to be admissible. An illegal search, an illegal seizure, or both, can be the basis of a motion to suppress the evidence.
Every DUI Case is Different
Every DUI case is different. There are dozens of potentially useful pretrial motions attorneys can make in DUI cases. However, the DUI pretrial motions useful to a given individual depend on the facts and circumstances of a given case. This is why it is important to hire a Roswell DUI attorney who has extensive experience in DUI cases. We offer our services in the Roswell and Alpharetta area, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Contact us today at 404.816.4440 for a free consultation.