What is a Motion to Suppress in Georgia?
Motions are a routine part of every type of case. They are used to protect your rights and to ask the judge to make a decision, grant an order, or a ruling on a case. One of the benefits of having a lawyer who specializes in criminal law is that they are familiar with what motions need to be filed and how to make them work to your advantage. Every type of law is different and don't be fooled into thinking that any lawyer can handle your criminal case. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Criminal Defense Attorneys only handle Georgia criminal cases. There is no case they haven't dealt with before so trust them with your case.
Motion to Suppress
A motion to suppress is a request by the defendant that the judge excludes certain evidence from trial. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizures and motions to suppress are the key resource to protecting this right. They are similar to motions in limine, but motions to suppress are most common in search and seizure cases to prevent evidence from being admitted. Similar to motions in limine, they are filed in advance in a trial.
If you win the motion to suppress, it is often the end of the State's case against you, and usually, the case is dismissed. However, if the motion is not granted, then the trial continues.
Reasons a Judge May Grant a Motion to Suppress
Motions to suppress are used to protect defendants from unlawful search and seizures. If your constitutional rights have been violated, then you or your attorney must file a motion to suppress. There are several reasons why a court may suppress evidence:
- Unlawful search and seizure: Police must have a valid search warrant, a valid arrest warrant, or probable cause that a crime was committed in order to search for and gather evidence. Without one of those reasons, it is an unlawful search.
- Failure to read Miranda rights: Suspects must be read the Miranda rights before any questioning or an interrogation. If they have not been read their rights, then any statements or confessions made after the arrest are inadmissible.
- Error in the chain of custody: Evidence must be properly taken care of from the moment it is seized to when it is presented at trial. If there was a mistake in the chain of custody, then the evidence may be suppressed. An example is when a person has been charged with a DUI, and their chemical test was mislabeled or mixed up with others at the lab. That is grounds for the evidence to be suppressed even if they were over the limit.
Reasons a Judge may Not Grant a Motion to Suppress
While there are several reasons to grant a motion, there are also situations where a judge will not grant the motion:
- Good faith: If the police officer acted in good faith believing that the search/arrest warrant was valid, the evidence might not necessarily be excluded in court.
- Inevitable discovery: If the evidence would have been discovered through legal means, it will be admitted. An example of this is if the police entered a home illegally and discovered a meth lab. However, the owner of the house was already a suspect, and a judge had already entered a search warrant for his home. If the judge concludes that a normal police investigation would have likely uncovered the same evidence without an illegal entry, the evidence could be admissible.
Example of When to File a Motion to Suppress
Bill is walking down the road when he is approached by a police officer. Bill was not behaving suspiciously, and there was no reason for the police officer to suspect that he was guilty of a crime. Nevertheless, the officer frisked Bill and found a large amount of marijuana on his person. Bill is charged with possession of marijuana. Bill's lawyers file a motion to suppress the marijuana because the police officer had no reason to stop and frisk Bill. The Court agrees and grants the motion to suppress because the police officer did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicious for the detention or frisk of Bill. Because the prosecution cannot prove Bill committed a crime without that evidence, it moves to dismiss the charges and the judge allows it.
Why it is Important to Hire an Attorney
Motions to suppress can be an invaluable tool to help defend your case. However, not all lawyers are familiar with them or know how to appropriately use them because they don't practice criminal law. To ensure you are receiving the best possible representation, you need an attorney experienced in criminal law. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Criminal Defense Attorneys have over 50 combined years of criminal experience. They can accurately determine when there are search and seizure issues and successfully challenge the legality of the evidence. To identify these types of issues, your attorney needs an in-depth knowledge of both police procedure and current case law.
It is difficult to represent yourself in a criminal case and especially to know when to present motions to the judge. Do not try and do this on your own! You could compromise your case by not understanding the law and criminal procedure. Let our Georgia lawyers help you today. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.