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What is a Motion to Suppress Evidence (1538.5 Motion)?

A motion to suppress is a commonly used motion to keep out evidence when there is an unreasonable search, whether with or without a warrant. It is most commonly used when evidence is obtained as a result of an unlawful search or seizure by the police WITHOUT a warrant, but it can also be filed when the search happened with a warrant. In most cases, motions to suppress are filed when a police officer did not have the right to detain, arrest, or search an individual. In cases where the police did have a warrant, it is filed to attack the validity of the warrant or the way the search was conducted.

When should a court suppress evidence?

1. The first scenario is when there was no warrant and the search or seizure was unreasonable.

Although law enforcement is allowed to search and seize property without a warrant, it can only happen if the search or seizure was REASONABLE. This is because the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures.

EXAMPLE: You were pulled over one night and ended up getting charged with a DUI. The officers state that they pulled you over because of your expired registration, but your registration was actually up-to-date and the decal on your license plate reflected that. Nothing about the way your were driving could have justified a police officer pulling you over.

In this example, the government had no reason to pull you over. Pulling someone over qualifies as a detention, and allowing the government to do that to any citizen for no good reason would be tantamount to allowing the government to harass its citizens. This is why we have the 4th Amendment. All the evidence obtained AFTER the stop must be suppressed because, as a society, we do not want the government to be able to benefit from collection of that evidence because the government only obtained that evidence through unlawful means.

2. The second scenario in which evidence must be suppressed is if the government DID have a warrant, but one of these occurred:
a) the warrant was insufficient on its face
b) the evidence obtained is not what was described in the warrant
c) the warrant was issued without probable cause
d) the method by which the warrant was executed violated federal or state constitutional standards
e) there was some other violation of federal or state constitutional standards

EXAMPLE: There was a warrant to search your house, but it was only based on the fact that you drive a black Toyota Prius, and a suspect in a recent robbery on the other side of the city drove a black Prius. Law enforcement made no effort to verify if the license plate numbers matched. They eventually find the black handgun in your closet.

In this example, the black handgun would have to be suppressed because the warrant was insufficient to begin with. Just because you drive a black Prius, which is a very common car, does not mean that the police can search the home of every person who drives a black Prius. That did not qualify as probable cause to believe you were the robber.

When is a Motion to Suppress heard by the judge?

A motion to suppress is heard before trial. In a felony case, it is usually heard at the same time as the preliminary hearing.

What happens if the judge grants the Motion to Suppress Evidence (1538.5 Motion)?

If the judge grants the motion, it means that he or she is ruling in favor of the defendant, and the evidence must be suppressed. Without the crucial evidence, the prosecutor, in an overwhelming majority of cases, will dismiss the charges.

Attorney Nghi Lam has been successful in either getting a case dismissed or getting his clients’ charges lowered as a result of Motions to Suppress Evidence (1538.5 Motion). To fight criminal charges aggressively, you need a top criminal lawyer who will seek different avenues to challenge the system, including filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence to potentially get your criminal case dismissed. We take a very aggressive approach to all of our cases, and we take pride in our work. We serve Orange County, LA County, Riverside County, San Bernardino, and all of southern California, in state AND federal court. We conduct business with our clients in person and remotely. Our phone number is 213-235-7969 and we look forward to discussing your case with you.

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