What Is a Motion to Suppress?
A motion to suppress is a powerful tool a defense attorney can use in a criminal case. If a judge grants it, it essentially blocks the prosecution from using certain pieces of evidence. The exclusion of evidence can significantly impact a case because it can weaken the prosecutor's arguments.
Protecting the Defendant's Rights
A motion to suppress is filed when a criminal defense attorney believes a client's rights were violated. In most cases, the defendant makes the request to the court when it appears law enforcement officials infringed upon the individual's Fourth Amendment protections.
Under the Fourth Amendment, a person has the right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. Typically, this means investigators must have a valid warrant to look through an individual's property, such as their car, home, person, or any place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Without proper permission from the court, officials cannot take actions. Certain searches and seizures are an overreach of governmental authority. A motion to suppress provides recourse to a person subject to violations. It keeps material deemed to be illegally obtained out of cases.
When a Motion to Suppress Is Filed
A motion to suppress is a pretrial request, meaning the defendant's attorney must file it before trial. It is crucial a criminal lawyer comb through facts of the case thoroughly early on.
Under Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure 2.11, the defense must file a motion to suppress as soon as they identify a reason to make the request. The motion must be submitted within 40 days of the defendant's arraignment. If the defense does not meet the deadline, the court assumes they have waived their right to file a motion to suppress. Yet, the judge can allow a late filing, provided the defendant has a good reason for not getting the motion in on time.
When the defense moves to suppress evidence, they can do so on several grounds, including, but not limited to:
- Warrantless seizure of property
- Property seized based on an invalid or insufficient warrant
- Property seized was not included in the warrant
- Warrant issued on grounds with no probable cause
- Investigators illegally executed the warrant
The judge will hear arguments from both the defense and prosecution during a pretrial hearing and must decide "without unreasonable delay" (Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.11(8)). If the judge determines the defense's arguments are valid and the prosecution has not shown the evidence was legally derived, they may grant the motion to suppress.
The Effects of Suppressing Evidence
Suppressing evidence has several effects. First, it restores the property to the owner or legal custodian unless it's contraband (Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.12).
Second, a successful motion to suppress makes any illegally obtained evidence inadmissible. This means the prosecutor cannot present it. Subsequently, the trier of fact (the judge or jury) cannot consider it. Because evidence is how the prosecutor supports their arguments the defendant should be found guilty, excluding any piece of it can be favorable to the defendant.
The impacts of excluding evidence from trial depend on what the evidence was. If a small portion of the evidence was not allowed, the prosecutor might still decide to move forward with their case. But the defense has a greater chance of casting doubt on the prosecutor's arguments.
If a significant portion or one crucial piece of the evidence was deemed inadmissible, the prosecutor might decide to dismiss the case, realizing they can't prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt without that material.
The Effects of a Motion to Suppress Being Denied
In some cases, the judge might decide evidence was not illegally obtained. In these situations, the motion to suppress will be denied, and the prosecutor can present the evidence. Still, that doesn't mean the judge or jury will find the defendant guilty. Other defenses may be raised to challenge the prosecutor's arguments. Additionally, the defendant could appeal the trial court's decision to deny the suppression of evidence.
Contact Our Firm to Discuss Your Defenses
Try not to be discouraged if a motion to suppress is not available or is denied in your case. Although it is a powerful tool, it is not the only way to defend against your charges and protect your rights. Various other avenues may be available. At Branstad & Olson, we're here to explore and help you understand your options. Our Des Moines team will thoroughly review your case to determine the methods we can use to seek a favorable outcome on your behalf.
To schedule a free consultation, please call us at (515) 329-3100 or contact us online today.