motion to suppress | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

A motion to suppress is a formal request to a judge that certain evidence not be considered at trial.

A motion to suppress is a formal legal request made by a defendant or their attorney to a judge to exclude certain evidence from consideration during a trial. The purpose of a motion to suppress is to prevent the prosecution from using evidence that was obtained through unconstitutional or otherwise illegal means.

Uses of the Motion to Suppress

A motion to suppress can be used in a variety of criminal cases, including drug offenses, white-collar crimes, and violent crimes. The defendant or their attorney must file the motion to suppress before trial, and legal arguments and evidence must support it.

Legal Arguments for the Motion to Suppress

The legal arguments in a motion to suppress typically focus on the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. The defendant must show that the evidence in question was obtained through a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, such as an illegal search or seizure, and that the evidence should therefore be excluded from consideration at trial.

Evidence that is obtained through an illegal search or seizure is typically referred to as the “fruit of the poisonous tree” because the illegality of the initial search or seizure taints it. If a judge grants a motion to suppress, any evidence that is considered the fruit of the poisonous tree must be excluded from the trial.

Keys to Success

To succeed in a motion to suppress, the defendant must demonstrate that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place or thing that was searched and that the search was conducted without a warrant or without meeting the legal requirements for a warrantless search. The defendant must also show that they suffered a violation of their rights as a result of the search or seizure, such as the confiscation of property or the discovery of incriminating evidence.

In addition to Fourth Amendment arguments, a motion can also be based on other legal grounds, such as violations of the defendant’s Fifth or Sixth Amendment rights or the use of unreliable or prejudicial evidence.

The decision to file such a motion can be a strategic one for the defense, as it can limit the evidence that the prosecution can use at trial and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. However, it is important to note that a motion to suppress can also backfire if the judge denies the motion and allows the evidence to be admitted at trial.

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Last Modified: 06/27/2023


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