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Components of a Motion to Suppress Evidence
(Legal Grounds & Types)

A motion to suppress evidence is an attempt by defendants to exclude certain evidence from an upcoming trial. Evidence may be suppressed if it was obtained illegally or if it is not relevant to the case, and also if it is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What are the Components of a Motion to Suppress?

A motion to suppress evidence is part of the pretrial process. In most cases, the motion is filed and decided upon before the trial begins.

A suppression hearing provides both the defense and prosecution an opportunity to argue their positions on the motion to suppress. The arguments are presented in front of the judge, not a jury.

The motion to suppress hearing usually includes testimony from the defendant about how the illegal evidence was obtained, testimony from law enforcement, cross-examination by the prosecutor, and a conclusion with oral arguments to the judge by both prosecution and defense on reasons why the motion to suppress should be granted or denied.

Also Read: Destruction of Evidence Charges

The principal legal grounds for the suppression of evidence are that:

  • The evidence was obtained in a warrant-less search,
  • The police gathered evidence in violation of the suspect’s right to a lawyer,
  • The suspect was not read his or her Miranda Rights,
  • The police had a search warrant, but it was invalid, and
  • Police failed to preserve the evidence's chain of custody.

What Type of Evidence Can Be Suppressed?

Some common examples of evidence suppressed include Evidence gathered via an unreasonable search in violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and evidence obtained due to an unlawful traffic stop or arrest, which constitutes an unreasonable seizure in violation of the 4th Amendment.

Also Read: Waving Miranda Rights Defined

What is Unlawful Suppression of Evidence?

Unlike lawful suppression of evidence requested by a defendant, an unlawful suppression of evidence is proposed by a prosecutor who improperly or intentionally withholds evidence. Since the Brady Rule (Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83) requires prosecutors to disclose evidence possessed by the government, if prosecutors fail to disclose it, the evidence cannot be used at trial.

Related Article: Why Is the Burden of Proof Important?

Habit Evidence vs Character Evidence

Habit evidence is used to describe any evidence submitted for the purpose of proving that a person acted in a particular way based on that person's tendency to respond to a particular situation in a particular way.

Habit evidence is similar but different from character evidence, which seeks to show that a person behaved in a particular way based on that person's prior bad acts, based on the opinion of a witness, or based on that person's reputation in the community. Such character evidence is typically inadmissible in court.

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