Inadmissible Evidence: How to Keep It Out

The Motion to Suppress

The defense in any case has tools at their disposal to keep inadmissible or illegally obtained evidence out of court. A pretrial motion that exists is the motion to suppress evidence.

What is a Motion to Suppress?

A motion to suppress is essentially a pretrial objection to inadmissible or illegally obtained evidence that the prosecution may use at trial to support their case. If the defense fails to make a motion to suppress the unwanted evidence, not submitting the motion acts as a waiver of any objection of evidence based on the argument that the evidence was not legally obtained. It does not preclude the argument that the evidence is not relevant, or that the evidence is inadmissible under some different theory.

In What Situations Does a Motion To Suppress Apply?

Motion’s to suppress are based on constitutional arguments: (1) Fourth amendment protections against search and seizure. (2) The Fifth Amendment’s limitations of self-incrimination. (3) The Fifth and Fourteen Amendment safeguards for due process of the law.

1. Search and Seizure:

The Fourth Amendment provides protections from searches and seizure by the State that are unreasonable under the circumstances. The protections under this Amendment are often violated during traffic stops that take a different tone when the police officer suspects criminal activity, but has no rational, tangible proof of criminal activity.

2. Self-Incrimination:

The Fifth Amendment protects an individual from incriminating themselves in criminal law activities. It does not typically apply in civil law cases, unless saying or admitting to something in civil court would subject yourself to criminal liability. This right is often violated when a person is arrested by police and is not read their Miranda warnings, but the police continue question or interrogate the person.

3. Due Process

Due process protections of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments typical refer to protections that all citizens are entitled to and that the law should not abuse those protections. Due Process guarantees refer to substantive and procedural law. Under both substantive and procedural law, a person should be able to know what criminal behavior is and what is not considered criminal behavior.

Talk to your lawyer:

When speaking with an attorney about your situation, be up front about the facts of your case. This will give your attorney an idea of what to be looking for as evidence that may be inadmissible or illegally obtained. Providing an accurate account of the details of your case will enable your attorney to find illegally obtained evidence more readily because they will know where to look. This includes telling them the good and the bad. Your attorney needs to know. Even damning evidence can be inadmissible if it was illegally obtained. Your attorney needs to be made aware of what you know, what they know, and all of what happened, so that they can be looking for violations when they review discovery from the prosecution.

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