If you are charged with crimes based on incriminating evidence, you might feel hopeless. But as experienced criminal defense attorneys know, sometimes the evidence is not valid for use against you. Just because police have evidence doesn’t mean that they had the right to obtain that evidence, or that the court has the right to use it against you.
To use evidence against you, the police must have a search warrant. It’s actually quite common for police to make a search without a warrant. If you believe the evidence was obtained unlawfully, you have the option to file a motion to suppress.
What is a Motion to Suppress?
Nolo defines a motion to suppress evidence as: a request made by a defendant for the judge to exclude certain evidence from trial. The defense often makes this motion well in advance of trial, and if the defendant wins it, the prosecution or judge may have to dismiss the case. Motions to suppress evidence are most common in Fourth Amendment and search-and-seizure cases, according to Nolo.
Motions to suppress are based on the “exclusionary rule,” which acts to prevent the government from using evidence gathered illegally. While normally the exclusionary rule protects the Fourth Amendment, The rule may also be triggered by police violations of the Fifth or Sixth Amendment, according to FindLaw.
According to law, there are only five types of exceptional situations where a warrantless search is acceptable:
- With the occupant’s consent
- Incident to lawful arrest
- With probable cause to search but with exigent circumstances
- In hot pursuit
- Pursuant to a stop and frisk.
A Real-Life Example
In a recent Florida case, the defendant won a motion to suppress evidence that was found in a hotel room with no warrant to search.
The defendant was a minor staying at a hotel room that had been reserved on his behalf under a different name. The police had an outstanding probable cause affidavit due to a domestic battery misdemeanor. When police arrived at the hotel where the defendant was staying, they told the hotel manager that there was a minor staying at the hotel under a false name. The manager asked the officers to remove the defendant. The officers went to the defendant’s room and knocked on the door. When the defendant answered, the police grabbed his arm and arrested him. They then saw movement in the room and entered the room. They discovered two additional people in the room and arrested them too. The police then searched a backpack in the room and found illegal drugs. The prosecution brought this evidence to trial in an attempt to convict the defendant of drug crimes in addition to the domestic battery misdemeanor. The prosecution argued that because the defendant was staying at the hotel under a false name, he did not have the right to privacy and so the police were justified in searching the room. But the defense argued otherwise and won. In this case, the motion to suppress was not about dropping the original domestic battery charges, but about suppressing the evidence that could be used to support additional drug charges.
The defense argued that the evidence could not be used to convict the defendant because of several reasons supported by law:
- The hotel manager should have asked the occupants to leave before getting assistance from the police
- Even though the defendant was using a hotel room reserved under a different name, he still had the right to privacy as protected by the Fourth Amendment. The defense successfully argued that the law allows occupants of a hotel room to have the same expectation of privacy as residents of a house.
- The police officers did not have cause to search the room because they did not have reason to believe that they or anyone else was in danger
- The police went to the hotel to arrest the defendant for a misdemeanor domestic battery charge, but couldn’t prove that they needed to conduct a search to protect any evidence related to the battery.
What Does This Have to Do With You?
This case is a helpful example of how skilled criminal defense attorneys can discover ways that the law contradicts the methods or circumstances under which police sometimes discover evidence.
Incriminating evidence can’t be used against you unless it was lawfully obtained. If you’re being charged with crimes based on potentially invalid evidence, you might be able to fight back with a motion to suppress. If you’re facing criminal charges in the Naples, Florida area, don’t give up! Contact Michael M. Raheb at 239-226-0888 or by sending a message online.
2423 First Street,
Fort Myers FL 33901
Fax Number: 866-949-0888