A motion to suppress is used when evidence was gathered in a way that is illegal, or when procedure was broken in a way that the evidence could be contaminated, inaccurate or false. The motion is a formal request that the judge exclude the evidence from your case so that it cannot count against you.
Any evidence used against you in your DUI case has to follow certain rules. These rules exist to make sure that:
- Physical evidence is not damaged, tainted, contaminated or otherwise spoiled
- Testimony is not biased or coerced
- Data, such as from a breath test, is accurate and reliable
- Your legal rights are not violated
All of these rules are part of the laws surrounding search and seizure, even though an actual search may not be needed for all of them. If any evidence is gathered in a way that breaks the search and seizure rules, then the judge should refuse to allow it to be used. Your lawyer can make a formal request to “suppress” the evidence or have it thrown out of the case. This request is called a motion to suppress.
What happens if I file a motion to suppress?
You need to have some legal basis for claiming the evidence is illegal. Examples in DUI cases include:
- Police searched your car without your permission when they had not arrested you yet
- Police lied to you and said that a roadside breath test (PAS test) is mandatory when really it is not
- Police, technicians or labs failed to follow Title 17 rules for evidence
- The evidence was gathered as part of a traffic stop, arrest, or DUI checkpoint that was itself done in an illegal way
- You were not advised of your rights, or you were coerced in some way
If the judge agrees that the evidence is illegal, they will issue a ruling that it must be suppressed or not used in the case.
Can suppressed evidence ever still be used?
In general, no. Evidence is suppressed because it is either because its accuracy is now uncertain, or because your rights were violated. Generally it will be tossed out of the case altogether. But the judge’s job involved making judgment calls about evidence, and there are time when they may allow the evidence for one purpose and not for another, or they’ll allow part of the evidence. It depends on the specific circumstances and why the judge is agreeing to suppress it.
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