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What is a motion to suppress evidence?

Whenever the police take an action without an arrest or search warrant, they must be able to justify that action under the New Jersey and United States constitutions.  A person accused of a crime can challenge any arrest, confession or seizure of evidence in a proceeding called a motion to suppress evidence.

A motion to suppress evidence is a legal proceeding designed to challenge evidence on constitutional grounds.  Actually, it is a proceeding-within-a-proceeding that is brought by a defendant in a criminal case after the initial accusation or complaint or indictment has been brought.

Defense counsel initiates the motion to suppress evidence by filing formal papers with the court.  The prosecutor and defense counsel then submit legal arguments in an official document known as a brief.  If there has been an arrest or a search without a warrant, then the prosecutor files the first brief.  In the prosecutor’s brief, he or she must justify each step taken by the police.

The defendant then responds with a legal brief explaining how and why the police violated the defendant’s constitutional rights.

After the briefs are submitted, the court then holds a hearing with testimony and exhibits to resolve any contested issues.  The state has the burden of proof at the hearing.  If the court grants the motion to suppress evidence, then the prosecutor is barred from using the challenged evidence against the defendant in court.

The most common evidence challenged are an incriminating document, a confession, a breathalyzer reading or an incriminating item, most frequently drugs.  The most common types of criminal proceedings in which defendants bring motions to suppress evidence are drug cases.  The most common type of traffic court proceeding in which defendants bring motions to suppress evidence are drunk driving cases.

If you have been accused of a crime or a motor vehicle offense and you believe your rights have been violated, then you should contact Howes & Howes.


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