A motion to suppress evidence (also called a suppression motion) is used to prevent unlawfully obtained evidence from being used against you in court. By keeping out improper evidence, the state may be unable to use that evidence and end up dismissing the criminal charges.
In this article, our Denver Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
- 2. What is the Exclusionary Rule?
- 3. What kind of evidence can be suppressed?
- 4. What happens during a suppression hearing?
- 5. Will my case be dismissed after a suppression hearing?
- Further reading
1. What is a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
A motion to suppress evidence is a legal practice where you make a request that certain evidence should not be used at trial.
Your defense attorney makes an argument why the evidence should be excluded, usually based on a violation of your constitutional rights. If the police obtained evidence in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search or seizure, then they should not be able to use that evidence in a criminal prosecution.
There are many legal justifications for suppressing evidence in a criminal trial. This includes:
- Motion to Suppress Breath or Blood Test Results in a DUI
- Motion to Suppress Evidence for an Invalid Search Warrant
- Motion to Suppress Evidence for a Warrantless Search
- Motion to Suppress Evidence for a Warrantless Detention
Searches of the home, person, or property without judicial issuance of a warrant based on probable cause may be in violation of your constitutional rights. Even if the police had a warrant to conduct a search, if there were problems with the warrant’s affidavit or if the warrant lacked legality, evidence may also be suppressed.
However, there are some exceptions to search and seizure rules that allow the police to gather evidence without a warrant in particular cases.
2. What is the Exclusionary Rule?
Illegally obtained evidence should not be admissible in a criminal trial. This is known as the “exclusionary rule” in criminal procedure law.
Evidence that is obtained in violation of your constitutional rights is to be excluded.12 However, there are exceptions to the exclusionary rule where such evidence found from unreasonable searches is granted admissibility.
If the police or prosecutor obtained evidence from an independent source, they may be able to use the evidence at trial. Evidence obtained that was only remotely related to an improper source may also be admissible under the attenuation exception.
Additionally, evidence obtained by law enforcement who relied on a search warrant they believed was valid may be admissible under the good-faith exception. Or if the police asked to search your home without a warrant – and you consented – that serves as a waiver to the warrant requirements the police would normally have to follow.
3. What kind of evidence can be suppressed?
Just about any kind of evidence can be kept out of court through a suppression motion. As long as there is a legal basis that supports your case, you as the petitioner can file a motion for the trial court to suppress the evidence. This includes:
- Physical evidence
- Photo, audio or video evidence
- Emails or text messages
- Your blood, breath, or urine samples
- Confessions or other statements
If the police officers claim to have found drugs in your pocket after an illegal detention, a motion to suppress the drug evidence may leave the police with no case against you. If the police improperly conducted a traffic stop and arrested you for a DUI, you may be able to have your chemical breath test evidence suppressed, leaving them without any physical evidence to continue with the prosecution.
4. What happens during a suppression hearing?
Motions are used in a criminal case to deal with evidentiary issues before your case goes before the jury. Your defense attorney will file a motion to suppress evidence, detailing the legal basis for suppressing the evidence.
The prosecutor may respond to the motion with their own legal argument in support of admitting the evidence. The district judge may then hear arguments during a suppression hearing (a.k.a. evidentiary hearing) from each side and question the attorneys about their arguments.
The judge will then make a determination as to whether the evidence should be admitted or suppressed. If the court denies the motion, you can file an interlocutory appeal and, if necessary, ask for certiorari review (cert) from the Colorado Supreme Court.
5. Will my case be dismissed after a suppression hearing?
What happens next after a suppression hearing will all depend on the case.
If the district court ruled against your motion to suppress evidence, the prosecutor may be able to use that evidence in a trial. However, your attorney may be able to try and find another legal basis to suppress the evidence, keep it out of the jury trial, or otherwise limit the use of the evidence.
If the judge granted your motion to suppress, the evidence will be barred from use at trial. The prosecutor may then have to rely on any other evidence they have or find other ways to bolster their case against you. They may also appeal the judge’s decision, arguing that the judge incorrectly granted the motion in your favor.
If the prosecutor does not have any other evidence that is strong enough to support a case against you, they may drop the charges pursuant to lack of proof. If the prosecutor does not want to drop the charges, your attorney may be able to file a motion to dismiss the case. If the court rules in favor of your motion to dismiss, then your case may be dismissed.
For more information on issues related to motions to suppress, refer to the following articles and legal resources:
- How does the “exclusionary rule” apply in Colorado?
- Pretrial hearings in Colorado criminal cases
- What is a motion hearing in a Colorado criminal case?
- Colorado Rule of Criminal Procedure 12 – Pleadings, Motions Before Trial, Defenses, and Objections
- Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12 – Pleadings and Pretrial Motions
- The Constitution of the United States, Amendment 4; see also Mapp v. Ohio, (United States Supreme Court, 1961) 367 U.S. 643, 81 S. Ct. 1684, 6 L. Ed. 2d 1081; see also Miranda v. Arizona, (1966) 384 U.S. 436; see also People v. Hopkins, (Colo. 1989) 774 P.2d 849; see also United States v. Carey, (10th Cir. 1999) 172 F.3d 1268; see also United States v. Merton, (D. Colo. 2003) 274 F. Supp.2d 1156. See also People in Interest of C.C.-S, (October 21, 2021) 2021 COA 127.
- Colorado Constitution, Article II, Section 7