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How Can a Federal Defense Attorney Suppress Illegally Obtained Evidence?

By Spodek Law Group | October 19, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 20, 2023)

Last Updated on: 20th October 2023, 09:48 am


How Can a Federal Defense Attorney Suppress Illegally Obtained Evidence?

As a defendant in a federal criminal case, one of your most important constitutional rights is to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment. This means the government cannot use evidence against you that was obtained illegally, without a warrant, or in violation of your rights.

If the prosecution tries to use illegally obtained evidence, your defense attorney can file a motion to suppress that evidence. This prevents the evidence from being used against you at trial. Suppressing evidence could result in the case being dismissed if the remaining evidence is too weak for the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Common Ways Evidence is Obtained Illegally

There are many ways investigators or police may obtain evidence illegally:

  • Searching your property or belongings without a valid search warrant
  • Interrogating you after you invoke your right to an attorney
  • Using force or coercion to obtain a confession
  • Stopping your vehicle without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity
  • Searching your car without consent or probable cause
  • Obtaining private communications without a wiretap order
  • Violating privilege by seizing attorney-client communications

If the evidence was obtained improperly in any way, your attorney can argue it should be excluded under the exclusionary rule. This rule prohibits the government from using illegally obtained evidence against you in court.

When Can a Motion to Suppress be Filed?

Your attorney can file a motion to suppress at any point before or during your trial. However, it is best to file early on so any tainted evidence is excluded right away. Some common times a motion would be filed are:

  • After you are indicted but before your trial begins
  • During a pretrial hearing
  • During your actual trial
  • After conviction at a sentencing hearing

The sooner the motion is filed and ruled on, the less likely it is illegal evidence will improperly influence the case against you.

What Must the Defense Prove?

When filing a motion to suppress, your attorney will have the burden to show the search or seizure was unconstitutional. This means proving:

  • The police lacked probable cause for a search
  • The police acted without a valid search warrant
  • Your rights were violated in some other clear way

If your lawyer meets this burden and shows the illegality of the search, the burden then shifts to the prosecution. The prosecution must demonstrate that the search and seizure was in fact legal and justified.

Common Grounds for Suppression Motions

Some of the most common arguments a defense lawyer will make in a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence include:

  • No Probable Cause – Police lacked probable cause for a search or arrest
  • Defective Warrant – The search warrant contained false/misleading info
  • Invalid Consent – You did not voluntarily consent to a search
  • Exceeded Scope – The search went beyond what was authorized
  • Flagrant Misconduct – Police deliberately violated your rights

Your attorney may also argue your statements or confessions were involuntary due to coercion, threats, or inducements by the interrogating officers.

The Suppression Hearing

If the judge agrees to hold a suppression hearing, both sides will have the chance to present evidence and question witnesses related to the search or seizure. Some key questions may include:

  • Did police have probable cause for the search?
  • Did the warrant contain false or misleading information?
  • Was your consent to search voluntary?
  • Did police exceed the scope authorized by the warrant?

After considering the evidence and arguments from both sides, the judge will decide whether the search violated your Fourth Amendment rights. If so, the judge will grant your motion and suppress the illegally obtained evidence.

Appealing a Denied Suppression Motion

If the judge denies your suppression motion, you can raise the issue again on appeal after conviction. An appeals court can overturn your conviction if it finds the trial court wrongly admitted illegally seized evidence. However, it is always best to get the evidence suppressed before trial if possible.

Talk to a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are charged with a federal offense and evidence against you was obtained illegally, contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced lawyer can advise you of all possible grounds to suppress evidence and may be able to get charges dismissed. Don’t let unlawfully obtained evidence be used to convict you. Protect your rights with strong legal representation.

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