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What is a Motion to Suppress and How does it apply to my DUI case?

May 30, 2013

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A Motion to Suppress is a legal/evidentiary argument made to the Court (Judge only) prior to trial to determine what evidence will be admissible at the trial. These Motions are often evidentiary, meaning one party or the other, usually the prosecution/government, must produce a witness to address the issues raised in the Motion. This is an incredibly import legal maneuver in a DUI defense case, because some of an arresting officer’s observations made in his narrative police report will never survive a Motion to Suppress and be admissible at trial. Also, a Motion to Suppress is an excellent opportunity for the defense lawyer to question the arresting officer under oath before trial. Police Officer’s will say the strangest things when they are not testifying for a fact finder at trial.

Examples of items or information, the admissibility of which can be challenged in a DUI case by way of a pre-trial Motion to Suppress:

Statements made by the accused

At the time of the motor vehicle stop, during field sobriety testing, in transport to the station, or during booking, to wit: “I’ve only had a couple,” “well really maybe it was 4 or 5 beers,” “I’ll try but I won’t pass that test,” “I should not have been driving,” “just drive me home,” “I’m not taking that test.” A Motion to Suppress Statements will determine before trial whether the statements are admissible and whether they were obtained in violation of your Miranda rights.

Items found on the driver or in his car

Including drugs, paraphanalia, open and closed containers of alcohol or receipts from a bar or tavern. A Motion to Suppress will determine whether the search of the person or car was conducted legally, pursuant to an exception to the warrant requirement, such as an Inventory Policy, Search incident to Lawful Arrest, or Open of Plain View Doctrine.

Field Sobriety tests, Breath Test and/or Blood Test evidence

Where the field sobriety tests conducted based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) standards and protocols, or did the driver actually refuse the tests, but was his/her exercise of the right to refuse the tests over ridden by the police, did the arresting officer has probable cause or a warrant to seize a hospital blood test, was the implied consent statute followed prior to the request for a voluntary breath test. Lastly, did the breath test operator, or blood analyst follow the administrative rules for the gathering, storage and testing of a sample for alcohol content.

Stop of the Vehicle or Probable Cause for Arrest

A DUI defense lawyer should never automatically concede that the police had a valid reason to pull you over in the first place, continue any roadside detention or possess actual probable cause to arrest you. Was that really a “marked lanes” violation when you only rode upon the fog line once and the center line twice over the course of 1.5 miles on a windy, dark, country road? Is it a crime to drive a vehicle as if you were lost, slowly proceeding through intersections and turns? If one out of five of your rear marker lights is out, is that really a defective equipment violation? If the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) is inadmissible, and the driver passed the one leg stand and walk and turn test, with no slurred speech and only the odor of alcohol on his breath can the officer make the arrest? All of these issues must be answered by a Judge before trial, and a favorable ruling will result in no trial. If the stop and arrest are ruled unconstitutional, the DUI charge/complaint is dismissed.

When you are looking for a lawyer to help you defend a DUI charge in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, be sure to discuss what evidence will be admissible at trial and how the attorney will utilize viable Motions to Suppress to protect your rights.

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