You may have heard that many criminal defendants have the option of filing a motion to suppress evidence as part of their defense strategy. As its name implies, a motion to suppress evidence is filed to ask the court to exclude certain types of evidence.
However, not all types of evidence can be suppressed and excluded from a criminal case in Texas. If you are facing criminal charges in Texas, contact a Fort Hood criminal defense lawyer to discuss the most effective defense strategy in your situation and determine if you can file a motion to suppress evidence in your case.
What is a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
In Texas criminal cases, the defendant and their defense lawyer can file a motion to suppress evidence to ask the judge to exclude certain evidence from trial. A defendant’s motion can be granted if there is proof that evidence against the defendant was obtained unlawfully.
When the motion is brought, a judge will review the validity of the request to determine whether or not to suppress evidence before trial. The judge will decide whether or not the evidence in question was obtained by law enforcement illegally.
According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 38.23, no evidence obtained by law enforcement in violation of federal or state laws or the U.S. Constitution can be used against the defendant at trial.
When Can Evidence Be Excluded from a Criminal Case?
A defendant has a right to ask the judge to exclude evidence from their criminal case to prevent the prosecution from using it at trial if law enforcement violated the following rights when collecting evidence:
The defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights that protect them from illegal searches and seizures;
The defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights that protect them from self-incrimination; or
Other federal or state laws.
If a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence is successful, the evidence in question will be excluded from their criminal case. It means that the prosecution will not be able to use the excluded evidence at trial to prove the defendant’s guilt.
Often, a successful motion to suppress is the first step to getting criminal charges dismissed and undermining the prosecutor’s case.
What Types of Evidence Can Be Suppressed and Excluded?
A motion to suppress evidence can be filed to exclude any type of evidence in a criminal case. Most often, motions to suppress are used to exclude the following three types of evidence:
Let’s look at each of these types of evidence that you can get excluded from being introduced at trial.
1. Physical evidence
Physical evidence that can be suppressed in a criminal case includes:
Photos or videos
Tools used by the defendant to commit a criminal offense
These and any other types of physical evidence can be excluded if law enforcement obtained them in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.
Example. A police officer searches a defendant’s vehicle without a warrant or probable cause. The officer finds illegal drugs and arrests the defendant on drug possession charges.
Prosecutors often use confessions of guilt as evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt. However, in some cases, these confessions are obtained illegally. If you can prove that law enforcement officers forced you to confess or you otherwise involuntarily confessed to a crime, you may be able to exclude this evidence with a motion to suppress.
Example. A police officer threatens to use force if a defendant does not confess to assaulting a victim.
3. Identification testimonies
An identification testimony is a testimony of a witness identifying the defendant as the perpetrator of a crime. Identification testimonies can be obtained in or out of court. A defendant might be able to exclude an identification testimony if the identification was coerced or otherwise obtained unlawfully.
Example. A police officer asks a witness of a crime to identify a suspect out of a lineup that was too suggestive. As a result, the witness identifies the wrong suspect.
When is Evidence Obtained Unlawfully?
Evidence may be obtained unlawfully when police officers violate the defendant’s constitutional rights or fail to follow procedural requirements when collecting evidence. Most often, motions to suppress evidence are filed as a result of the officers’ violation of defendants’ rights against self-incrimination and illegal searches and seizures.
For example, if a police officer finds incriminating evidence during an unlawful or unreasonable search, the evidence can be excluded from the trial.
What Happens When Evidence is Suppressed?
A defendant and their defense lawyer can bring a motion to suppress evidence anytime before trial. After the motion is filed, a judge will schedule a suppression hearing to decide whether or not to exclude the evidence in question.
During the hearing, the defense will present arguments to convince the judge that the evidence should be excluded from trial, while the prosecutor’s team will argue that the evidence is admissible.
If the defendant and their lawyer successfully prove that the evidence should be suppressed, the judge will use the exclusionary rule to keep the suppressed evidence out of court. When evidence is suppressed, the prosecutor is prohibited from using that evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt.
If the excluded evidence was critical, suppressing that evidence can result in the dismissal of the criminal case against the defendant. That is why it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney to determine whether or not you can ask the court to suppress evidence in your particular case.
Speak with Fort Hood Criminal Defense Lawyer
If law enforcement failed to honor your rights when collecting evidence and building their criminal case against you, you could file a motion to suppress to ensure that the illegally obtained evidence is excluded from your trial.
Our knowledgeable and results-driven criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard are dedicated to helping you protect your rights throughout the criminal justice process. We are prepared to review your particular case to determine whether or not any evidence can be excluded from your criminal case. Call (254) 220-4225 for a case evaluation.