The suppression hearing can make or break your case. It is an opportunity to have the evidence against your thrown out. Sound good? There’s only one problem: the odds are stacked against you.
For example, perhaps you’ve heard of the rule against hearsay. Well, at the suppression hearing, hearsay is admissible. Generally, the rules of evidence do not apply, which is bad for you.
In order to get the keep evidence out at the suppression hearing, your attorney will argue that you were subject to an illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Chances are that the prosecution will have a different perspective on the matter. Take a DUI suppression hearing, for example. If the police screwed up really bad and are not willing to lie to cover their tracks, you’re in luck. You might wind up with the evidence against you declared inadmissible, which makes convicting you of DUI impossible.
It’s often said that a DUI case is won or lost at the DUI suppression hearing. That isn’t necessarily always true, but it isn’t far from the truth. Even if the evidence comes in, it is still possible to win the case or make a plea deal. However, if the evidence is kept out due to an illegal search and seizure, it’s pretty much game over for the prosecution and you win the case right there.
But don’t count on having the evidence dismissed. The protection against illegal search and seizure of the Fourth Amendment doesn’t amount to much, especially outside your home. It’s full of exceptions, and chances are pretty good that whatever they seized from you is coming in as evidence.
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This all serves as yet another reminder as to why you should remain silent when you’re arrested. Here’s why:
Let’s say that you are at your house and you have some stolen goods in the garage. For whatever reason the police come into your garage without a warrant, discover the stolen goods and arrest you. While you are at the station they give you the old: “If you cooperate with us, we’ll make it easier on you,” routine. So you go ahead and tell them, yes, you and your friends stole this stuff last week from the neighbor.
Well guess what? If you hadn’t said anything, that evidence was almost certainly going to be thrown out because the police violated your 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. But, you blew the whole thing when you confessed! Now they don’t need that evidence anymore, because your confession is all they need to sink you.
In sum, the suppression hearing is an important opportunity to have a judge look at the evidence against you and determine whether it is allowed at trial. It’s not something you want to bank on unless the police violated your rights. But even then it will only help if you are wise enough to invoke your right to remain silent. For more information on suppression hearings and how an attorney can protect your evidentiary rights, call Beahm Law at 415.493.8677.