What is a motion to suppress evidence?
A motion to suppress evidence is a legal request made by a defendant in a criminal case to exclude certain evidence from being presented at trial. In North Carolina and the 4th Circuit, this motion is typically based on the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.
A motion to suppress evidence can be filed by a defendant if they believe that the evidence was obtained in violation of their constitutional rights. This could include situations where law enforcement officers conducted an illegal search or seizure, coerced a confession, or failed to properly advise the defendant of their rights during questioning.
If a defendant wishes to file a motion to suppress evidence, they must do so in writing and provide legal grounds for why the evidence should be excluded. The motion is typically filed before the trial begins, and an evidentiary hearing is held where the court will hear testimony and review evidence, and the parties will present arguments in support or opposition to the motion.
If the motion to suppress is granted, the evidence in question will not be allowed to be presented at trial. This can significantly weaken the prosecution's case and may even lead to the dismissal of the charges against the defendant. However, if the motion is denied, the evidence will be allowed to be presented at trial, which could make it more difficult for the defendant to mount a successful defense.
Reasonable Expectation of Privacy Required
It's important to note that the rules and procedures surrounding motions to suppress evidence can vary. In most cases tthe defendant will be required to show that they had "standing" to raise the legal issue. In the context of a 4th Amendment motion to suppress evidence, that means the moving party (defendant) must establish that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area or property that was searched. For instances, courts have held that a passenger in a car does not have standing to contest the search of the car, but may challenge police authority to search their person, or a personal item such as a purse they were holding at the point of contact. Passengers also specifically have the right to challenge the legality of the initial stop of the car.
Overall, a motion to suppress evidence is an important legal tool that can help to protect the constitutional rights of defendants in criminal cases. By excluding illegally obtained evidence from being presented at trial, defendants may be able to mount a stronger defense and potentially avoid a conviction. However, the success of a motion to suppress depends on the specific facts of the case and the strength of the legal arguments presented.
If you or a loved one is accused of possessing an illegal item you believe was discovered as the result of an unlawful search, give us a call or fill out our contact form to discuss your options. Consultations in criminal cases are always free.