If you have been stopped or arrested and evidence has been seized as a result of the stop or arrest, you are entitled to a suppression hearing to determine whether the evidence was properly seized. In many cases, a law enforcement officer will improperly seize evidence after a warrantless stop, detention or arrest, without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Before trial, you may file a motion to suppress evidence.
What Is a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
A motion is a request made to a judge. A motion to suppress evidence is a request to toss out or suppress evidence illegally obtained by the police.
What Does Suppress Mean?
Suppress means to exclude or prevent disclosure of evidence during a criminal trial when a party can show that the evidence was illegally obtained. For example, if a police officer pulls you over for a traffic violation and asks you to get out of the car and then searches the car, without a legitimate reason, any evidence located in the car would be illegally obtained and subject to suppression, which means that the judge would be required to toss it out.
Any evidence obtained as a result of an illegal stop, detention, or arrest, without probable cause, must be suppressed pursuant to the United States and Florida Constitutions. ‘The people have a right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.’ US Constitution, Fourth Amendment.
What Is a Police-Citizen Encounter?
A police officer may detain a citizen temporarily if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime. Mere suspicion is not enough to support a stop. An arrest must be supported by probable cause that a crime has been or is being committed. As a general rule, an encounter between a police officer and a citizen becomes an investigative stop when a citizen is not free to leave. When a law enforcement officer detains a citizen, without reasonable suspicion, or probable cause to arrest, the detention is invalid. When initial detention or arrest is invalid, all that flows from the illegal detention or arrest is also invalid. In other words, any evidence obtained after invalid detention or arrest is illegally obtained and must be suppressed. United States citizens are guaranteed the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.
What Kind of Evidence Can Be Suppressed?
Evidence unlawfully obtained, in violation of your constitutional rights, is subject to suppression. Some examples of evidence that can be tossed out are:
- Tangible physical evidence – weapons, drugs or drug paraphernalia, clothing, stolen property;
- Testimonial evidence – statements made by you to the police, including an alleged confession, or statements overheard by the police or secretly recorded while you are in the back of a police vehicle.
What Happens If I Win the Motion to Suppress?
If you have been illegally stopped or searched, you may be entitled to have any evidence seized as a result of that stop or search thrown out, and the case dismissed. If the State cannot show that the evidence was lawfully seized, you may be entitled to suppression of the evidence and dismissal of the charges. For example, if the police illegally seize evidence, such as drugs, and arrest you for possession of those drugs, a judge will probably suppress or toss out those drugs. If the judge tosses out the drugs, the State will have no evidence. If the State has no evidence, it must drop the charges or the judge will dismiss the case.
What Happens If I Lose the Motion to Suppress?
If the judge does not grant the motion to suppress, the case will move forward. However, even if you lose the motion to suppress, the process can give your criminal defense attorney an opportunity to learn more about the State’s case. If you ultimately reach a plea agreement, or if you get convicted after a trial, you will have the right to appeal the judge’s decision denying your motion to suppress. Occasionally, an appeals court reverses a judge’s denial of a motion to suppress, and again, the State will have no evidence so they must drop the charges.
If you or a loved one have been stopped or arrested and evidence has been seized as a result of the stop or arrest, you are entitled to a suppression hearing to determine whether the evidence was properly seized. You can file a motion to suppress evidence. Contact a criminal defense lawyer and request a suppression hearing. The attorneys at Fernandez and Hernandez have experience with suppression hearings and will work vigorously to get the evidence thrown out and the case dismissed.
If you need legal assistance with a suppression hearing, call Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Daniel J. Fernandez of Fernandez & Hernandez at 813 229-5353.