There is more awareness these days than ever before that police officers are not infallible. Sometimes evidence obtained during a DUI investigation is mishandled, unconstitutional, or even made up. When this happens, there is a process for having this evidence thrown out known as a motion to suppress.
What is a motion to suppress?
A motion to suppress is a request by a defendant to prevent the judge or jury from being able to take certain evidence into account when determining a defendant's guilt.
A “motion” is the formal process used by parties in a case to ask the judge to allow something to happen or to stop something from happening (such as moving a deadline or preventing someone from testifying). Motions can be made by writing and submitting it to the judge in advance of a court hearing or by making a verbal request during a hearing.
The party making the request usually has to prove the request is necessary by stating facts that support the request and referencing laws or prior court rulings that allow the request. The other parties in the case get a chance to respond to the motion. For example, if a defendant makes a request, the prosecutor can submit a response with their own supporting facts and laws. The judge will review both arguments and rule as to whether the motion is allowed or not.
When to Use a Motion to Suppress
A defendant would file a motion to suppress if there is some problem with the evidence. There are many ways that problems could arise with evidence, for example, the officer may have had no right to collect the evidence in the first place, the evidence could have been mishandled, or the prosecutor could have ignored the rules of the court when introducing the evidence.
Having a key piece of evidence suppressed could be the difference between winning and losing a case. A motion to suppress will be brought before the trial begins. A defendant's attorney will want to start the process of requesting evidence be suppressed as soon as possible, even the first time the defendant appears in court.
Knowledgeable Defense Counsel is Very Important to Successfully Suppressing Evidence
To be good at his or her job, a DUI defense attorney has to know all the reasons evidence can be suppressed, including reasons that an attorney not steeped in DUI defense would possibly not even think to consider. Reach out to Alpharetta DUI Lawyer Richard Lawson today.
In a DUI case, much of the evidence the police and prosecutor gather is geared towards proving two things: the defendant was in control of a vehicle and the defendant was intoxicated. One of the most important pieces to proving the prosecutor's case is the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that was measured from the defendant's blood, breath, or urine.
However, the BAC level might be suppressed as evidence if the defense counsel finds a flaw. For example, an officer could have waited too long before taking a blood sample to the evidence refrigerator or the lab that analyzed the sample may not have followed proper quality control measures.
Experienced DUI defense counsel should be well educated about the best practices for getting an accurate BAC reading and know how to review the police reports and laboratory reports for anything that might have made the reading inaccurate.
Field Sobriety Tests
Another key piece of evidence will be the way the defendant performed on physical tests that were conducted during the officer's investigation, usually on the side of the road where the defendant was pulled over. These field sobriety tests are considered solid evidence most places in the United States but the tests can only be accurate if they are administered correctly. Often, officers will fail to administer the tests exactly as the standard guidelines say they should.
Attorney Richard Lawson has been certified as a DUI standardized field sobriety testing instructor and attorney Kimberly Berry has been certified to administer the tests. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Richard S. Lawson know how to spot testing errors.
Under the Constitution of Georgia and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of United States, you have a right against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” If a defendant can prove that his or her constitutional rights were violated, all the evidence that was gathered because of that violation may be thrown out.
State v. Goodman, 220 Ga. App. 169 (1996)
In this case, an officer pulled over Robert Goodman because Mr. Goodman took a left turn without signaling. The Court of Appeals of Georgia found that turning left from a left-turn-only lane without signaling was not enough to make reasonable suspicion. All evidence resulting from the improper traffic stop was suppressed.
Jones v. State 291 Ga. 35, 727 S.E.2d 456 (2012)
All the evidence was suppressed in this case because the Georgia Court of Appeals determined that an illegal seizure had taken place. The officer used his car to block the defendant from leaving a parking lot and so the encounter was non-consensual.
After a Successful Motion to Suppress Evidence
A successful motion to suppress could mean a major piece of evidence, like the defendant's supposed BAC level, could be taken out of the prosecutor's toolbox at trial. However, this does not guarantee that the prosecutor will dismiss the case. The District Attorney of Fulton County (which includes Roswell and Alpharetta) is likely to continue to take the case to trial if there is enough evidence that has not been suppressed. A successful motion to suppress will give a defendant a better position for negotiating a possible settlement with the prosecutor or a greater chance of winning a trial.
Time is of the Essence When it Comes to Suppressing Evidence
If you are facing a criminal charge related to intoxicated driving in Roswell or Alpharetta, consider speaking to an attorney with experience fighting DUI cases in these cities. A motion to suppress should be filed as early in the case as possible. After your DUI attorney reviews your case, you may be surprised to learn that there is a problem with the evidence that an untrained person would never have recognized. Contact Roswell DUI Attorney Richard Lawson today for a free consultation.