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How Do You Suppress Evidence In Dui Cases

Suppressing Evidence: Your Ace in the Hole for Beating a DUI

You’re here, because you or someone you know got slapped with a DUI charge. Sucks, right? But, take a deep breath. There‘s a powerful legal move that could get your entire case thrown out – the motion to suppress evidence.Think of it like a “get out of jail free” card. If the cops messed up, even a little bit, during your arrest, we can use that to potentially suppress (aka throw out) any evidence they collected. No breathalyzer, no blood test, no body cam footage. Poof, gone. And without that evidence, the prosecutor’s case falls apart like a house of cards.So, how does this magic legal maneuver work? Let me break it down for you.

What is a Motion to Suppress Evidence?

A motion to suppress is a request filed by your DUI lawyer asking the judge to prohibit the prosecutor from using certain evidence against you at trial. Why would a judge do that? Because that evidence may have been obtained illegally by the police violating your constitutional rights.The 4th Amendment protects us against “unreasonable searches and seizures” by law enforcement. That means cops can’t just pull you over, search your car, or take your blood whenever they feel like it. They need a valid legal reason, called “probable cause.”If they mess up and violate those 4th Amendment protections during your DUI stop and arrest, any evidence they gathered afterward could be considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” – meaning it‘s tainted and inadmissible in court.Some common examples where a motion to suppress could apply:

  • The officer lacked reasonable suspicion to pull you over initially
  • The breathalyzer or blood test was conducted improperly
  • You weren’t read your Miranda rights before being interrogated
  • The police searched your vehicle illegally
  • There were issues with the warrant for a blood draw

Basically, any procedural errors or constitutional violations by the cops open the door for your DUI lawyer to file a motion and try to get that evidence excluded. And if they’re successful in suppressing key evidence like the breath or blood test results, the prosecutor may be forced to completely dismiss the DUI charges against you.Pretty powerful stuff, right? Let’s dive into some more specifics.

When Should You File a Motion to Suppress?

The timing of when to file a motion to suppress is crucial. It needs to happen before your actual DUI trial, usually at one of two points:

  1. The Preliminary Hearing – This is an early court appearance where the prosecutor has to show some evidence that a crime was committed to move the case forward. Your lawyer can file a suppression motion here, and if granted, may get the whole case tossed.
  2. A Special Suppression Hearing – If your lawyer didn’t file at the preliminary hearing or new issues came up later, they can request a separate hearing just to argue motions to suppress evidence.

The key is identifying any potential violations by the cops as early as possible in your case. That‘s why having an experienced DUI defense attorney review every detail of your arrest is so important. They know exactly what to look for in terms of procedural errors or constitutional violations that could open the door for suppression.

What Evidence Can Be Suppressed in a DUI Case?

Pretty much any piece of evidence obtained by the police can potentially be kept out of your trial if it was gathered illegally or improperly. Some common examples include:

  • The initial traffic stop dashcam or body camera footage
  • Results of the field sobriety tests (walk the line, one leg stand, etc.)
  • Breathalyzer results from roadside or the police station
  • Blood test results from the hospital or lab
  • Any statements you made admitting to drinking
  • Physical evidence like open containers found in your car
  • Observations by the officers about your appearance, driving, etc.

Basically, anything and everything related to your DUI stop and arrest is fair game to try and suppress if the cops made any mistakes in how they obtained that evidence.Let’s look at a hypothetical example to illustrate how this might play out:Say you were pulled over for failing to signal a lane change. Seems like a legitimate traffic violation, right? But what if the dashcam footage shows you actually did properly signal, and the officer was mistaken?If that‘s the case, your lawyer could file a motion arguing the initial traffic stop violated your 4th Amendment rights since the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to pull you over. If the judge agrees and grants the motion to suppress, anything after that point is inadmissible – the field sobriety tests, breathalyzer, even your admission to having “a couple beers” with the officer.With all that evidence gone, the prosecutor would likely be forced to dismiss the DUI charges entirely since they can‘t prove you were actually impaired or over the legal limit without those test results.That’s just one example, but you get the idea. Any mistake by law enforcement, no matter how seemingly small, could open the door to suppressing some or all of the evidence against you through a well-crafted motion.

Christine Twomey
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How to Maximize Your Chances of Winning a Suppression Motion

Of course, just filing a motion to suppress doesn‘t automatically mean the judge will rule in your favor. Your DUI lawyer needs to make a strong legal argument backed up by case law, testimony, and evidence.Here are some tips that can maximize your chances of getting that key evidence suppressed:

Get All Police Reports and Video Footage

The first step is obtaining all the evidence the prosecution plans to use against you through the legal “discovery” process. That includes police reports, dashcam videos, bodycam footage, calibration and maintenance records for any breathalyzers used, etc. Your lawyer needs to comb through every detail to identify any potential violations.Have an Independent Expert Review Testing Procedures
For breath and blood tests, having an independent toxicologist or DUI expert review the procedures used is crucial. They can identify any deviations from proper protocols that could form the basis for suppressing the results as unreliable.Emphasize Officer Mistakes and Inconsistencies

During the suppression hearing, your lawyer should highlight any inconsistencies between the officers‘ testimony and what’s captured on video. Pointing out mistakes in procedures or violations of your rights can undermine the prosecution’s justification for the evidence.Use Persuasive Oral Arguments

While the written motion lays out the legal arguments, your DUI lawyer needs to make a compelling oral argument tying all the facts together at the hearing. The more persuasive they can be in showing the judge that your rights were violated, the better chance of winning a favorable ruling.Ultimately, getting a judge to suppress key evidence like breath or blood tests is one of the best ways to undermine a DUI prosecution. So taking the time to carefully develop a strong suppression strategy is absolutely critical.

What Happens If the Motion Is Granted?

If your DUI lawyer succeeds in getting some or all of the evidence against you suppressed through their motion, it can completely change the trajectory of your case in a huge way.With breath and blood tests excluded, the prosecutor is left trying to prove you were impaired and over the legal limit based solely on the officer‘s subjective opinion and observations. That’s an incredibly high legal bar to clear, especially if there’s no video footage or failed field sobriety tests allowed in either.In many cases, a successful suppression motion leads to two main outcomes:

  1. The Charges Get Dismissed Entirely
    Without those chemical test results, the prosecutor simply may not have enough admissible evidence left to prove you were driving under the influence beyond a reasonable doubt. So they’re forced to completely dismiss the DUI charges.
  2. The Prosecutor Offers a Much Better Plea Deal
    Even if they don’t outright dismiss the case, the prosecution’s hand is significantly weakened without all that key evidence. So to avoid the risk of losing at trial, they’ll likely start offering much more favorable plea bargains to something like reckless driving or negligent operation – charges that carry far less severe penalties than a DUI conviction.

Either way, you’re in a hugely better position than if all that evidence was allowed to be presented to a jury. That‘s why working with an experienced DUI lawyer to identify and capitalize on any potential suppression issues is absolutely crucial from the very start of your case.

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