The Fourth Amendment protects your right to privacy. As a result, police have to stick to certain guidelines and regulations when investigating suspected criminal activity. However, sometimes police may violate your rights by conducting an illegal search. When this happens, the state should not be allowed to use any illegally-obtained evidence in its criminal case against you.
Our attorneys will file a motion to suppress any evidence that was obtained in violation of your rights. This motion asks the court to exclude certain pieces of evidence from your trial. If the motion to suppress is granted, the state cannot use illegally-obtained evidence to support its case. As a result, they may be forced to offer a favorable plea or drop the charges altogether. Contact The Rodriguez Law Group today to learn more. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are here to help you protect your rights.
- 1 Grounds for Filing a Motion to Suppress
- 2 Your Right to Privacy
- 3 Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
- 4 Filing a Motion to Suppress
- 5 Arguing a Motion to Suppress
- 6 Result of Your Motion to Suppress
- 7 Need Assistance?
Grounds for Filing a Motion to Suppress
A motion to suppress is a formal request to have illegally-obtained evidence excluded from your criminal trial. There are two grounds for filing a motion to suppress, as stated in Penal Code 15398.5 PC. Both involve unreasonable searches.
Unreasonable Warrantless Search
A motion to suppress can be granted if a search or seizure without a warrant was unreasonable. There are times when police can perform a warrantless search. These include:
- Search after an arrest
- Search to prevent a perceived threat of harm
- Search to prevent the destruction of evidence, and
- Search performed with probable cause.
However, police are generally encouraged to secure a warrant before conducting a search. A warrant can only be issued when there is evidence of probable cause. As a result, most warranted searches are reasonable. Warrantless searches, however, are much more likely to violate your Constitutional rights.
Burden of Proof: Warrantless searches are presumed to be unreasonable. When you file a motion to suppress evidence that was obtained through a warrantless search, the state will have the burden of proving that the search was reasonable.
Unreasonable Search With Warrant
A motion to suppress can also be granted if a search or seizure with a warrant was unreasonable. A warranted search may be considered to be unreasonable if:
- The warrant was insufficient on its face.
- Police obtained evidence that was outside the scope of the warrant.
- The property obtained was not described in the warrant.
- There was no probable cause to support the warrant in the first place.
- The warrant was executed in a way that violated Constitutional standards.
- Police violate any constitutional standards.
Search warrants must be based on probable cause and narrowly defined. Just because police have a search warrant doesn’t mean that they can perform the search any way they like. A search warrant gives police the right to search for specific things and in specific areas. They must adhere to the strict terms of the warrant for the search to be reasonable.
Burden of Proof: Searches performed pursuant to a warrant are presumed to be reasonable. As the defendant, you will have the burden of proving that the search was unreasonable. You must point to specific details of the search that made it unreasonable.
Your Right to Privacy
You have the right to enjoy a certain level of privacy. The Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from intruding into certain aspects of your life without probable cause. However, this right to privacy is not unlimited.
A motion to suppress will only be granted if you had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place that police searched. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy in regard to your:
- Home or residence
- Cell phone contents
- Personal belongings in a public school, and
- Inside of a structure (e.g., tent) that is designed to obscure activity from public view.
You do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy if:
- You are a passenger in someone else’s vehicle
- You have abandoned property, or
- You have stolen property.
The “reasonable expectation of privacy” standard is objective, rather than standard. In other words, it does not matter if you thought you had the right to privacy. Instead, the right is a legal standard applicable to everyone.
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
An illegal search and seizure can have immediate and long-lasting impacts on your criminal case. Evidence or information gathered in an illegal search can help to strengthen the state’s investigation into a suspected crime. The state may be able to use that illegal evidence or unlawfully-obtained information to find other evidence to support its case. This additional evidence can be considered an extension of the illegal search.
Evidence that derives from an illegal search is known as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” Since police violated your rights, the state should not be able to benefit from that illegal conduct. As a result, any evidence that is gathered because of an illegal search or seizure can be suppressed. It doesn’t matter how long after the illegal search the new evidence was obtained. Your attorney can file a motion to suppress as long as there is a link between the unreasonable search and evidence.a
Filing a Motion to Suppress
A motion to suppress is generally a part of the pretrial proceedings. This means that the issue is brought up in the preliminary stages of your criminal case. The goal is to get any illegally-obtained evidence thrown out before your case gets to trial. When is the motion to suppress filed? The earlier the better. In fact, your attorney can file a motion to suppress during your arraignment hearing.
Arguing a Motion to Suppress
The motion to suppress can be argued at your arraignment (or other pretrial hearing) or during a dedicated suppression hearing.
Your attorney can choose to argue the motion to suppress right away during a pretrial hearing. However, this will be limited to the evidence that the state intends to introduce at this point in time. If you want to suppress other pieces of evidence, your attorney must request a separate hearing.
What happens if the motion to suppress is denied during a pretrial hearing? Your attorney can file the motion to suppress again and request a separate hearing. However, the scope of this separate hearing will be limited. During this hearing, the judge will only consider the transcript of the prior hearing and evidence that “could not reasonably have been presented” during the first hearing.
The suppression hearing has one purpose: to evaluate your request to have evidence excluded from your criminal trial. During the hearing, a judge will hear arguments and testimony from both sides. Aspects of a suppression hearing may include:
- Oral arguments by your attorney and the prosecution
- Witness testimony
- Policy testimony
- Your personal testimony, and
- Cross-examinations by your attorney and the prosecution.
Your attorney will try to explain and prove why specific pieces of evidence should be excluded from your case. The state will try to explain and prove that the searches were not unreasonable and, as a result, evidence is fair game.
Result of Your Motion to Suppress
The motion to suppress is argued in front of a judge. This judge will determine whether your motion will be granted or denied. The result will significantly impact the future of your criminal case.
Motion to Suppress Granted: If the judge decides that you have been the victim of an unreasonable search or seizure, they have the authority to grant your motion to suppress. This means that specific pieces of evidence must be excluded from your criminal trial. The state will not be able to rely on those pieces of evidence to convict you. However, this evidence can still be used against you in parole hearings, deportation hearings, and grand jury proceedings.
Motion to Suppress Granted in Part: Sometimes the judge will grant a motion to suppress in part. This means that some evidence must be excluded, while other pieces can still be used against you.
Motion to Suppress Denied: If the judge feels that you have not satisfied your burden of proof and showed that a search was unreasonable, they can deny your motion to suppress. The prosecution will be able to use all of the evidence in its case.
Have you recently been the victim of an unreasonable search or seizure? Did police gather evidence or information in violation of your Constitutional rights? You need to speak with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney immediately. Filing a motion to suppress that evidence can be essential to your future. If the motion is successful, the state will not be able to use illegally-obtained evidence in its case against you. Without this evidence, the state may not be able to support criminal charges. You may receive a favorable plea offer or have the charges dropped altogether.
At the Rodriguez Law Group, our attorneys will thoroughly investigate your case. We will make sure that the state is not relying on any evidence that was obtained in violation of your rights. Call us today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more.