A motion to suppress is a motion filed with the court to keep certain information from being heard at trial by the jury or judge. There are three types of suppression motions: a motion to suppress physical evidence, a motion to suppress confession or admission, and a motion to suppress an identification. We will discuss each of the three types in more detail below. These motions can be used even when the information being suppressed or kept out is true, but the way the police obtained the information was either unconstitutional or a serious violation of the procedure that was supposed to be used. Suppression motions are best if they are made prior to trial. This allows the motion to be argued at a hearing prior to trial and avoids delays during the trial. If the defendant testifies at the suppression motion hearing, the testimony given cannot be used against him or her at trial to prove guilt unless he or she fails to object to the use.
Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence
A motion to suppress physical evidence is typically used to argue that the evidence should be excluded because the search or seizure of evidence was against the defendant's constitutional right. The motion has to clearly identify what evidence the party is trying to suppress and the reason the evidence should be suppressed. That means just saying that the evidence should be suppressed because the search was illegal is not enough.
Evidence could be suppressed because it was found in a stop where there was no reasonable suspicion or probable cause, it was found based on a search warrant without probable cause or consent to search, it was found through outrageous police misconduct, or the evidence was found without a warrant when a warrant was required. Before a hearing, the court will determine if the defendant's motion is legally sufficient. If the judge finds that the motion is sufficient, he or she must hold a hearing where the defendant presents evidence supporting the suppression, and the State has a chance to argue against the suppression. After the defendant argues their side, it is the State's responsibility to show that the evidence was obtained appropriately.
Motion to Suppress a Confession or Admission
A motion to suppress a confession or admission is used to argue that a confession or admission was not freely or voluntarily given. The motion must explain to the court the facts necessary to decide whether the confession or admission was illegally obtained. Confessions can be involuntary because the police coerced a defendant through force, deprivation, or threats and promises. An admission could also be illegal because the police officer failed to inform the defendant of his or her Miranda rights prior to police interrogation. Another example is the lack of counsel during police interrogation after counsel has been appointed or hired.
Once a defendant attacks the voluntariness of his or her confession or admission, the State has to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the confession or admission was free and voluntary. That means the State must show that more likely than not, the defendant confessed or admitted freely and voluntarily.
Motion to Suppress an Identification
Finally, a motion to suppress an identification is used to keep out a pretrial identification of the defendant when the procedure violates due process. Identification procedures are illegal if it was suggestive, and the suggestiveness affected the probability of misidentification. A pretrial identification procedure can be improper because:
- The defendant stands out in a lineup based on age, size, or clothing;
- An officer makes comments that taint the identification process; or
- The defendant is shown alone to the witness in a show-up identification.
After the defendant shows that the identification process was improper, the defendant must also show that the procedure created a risk of misidentification. There are five factors the court considers for the influence of the suggestive procedure:
- The opportunity of the witness to view the perpetrator at the time of the crime;
- The witness's degree of attention;
- The accuracy of the witness's prior description of the perpetrator;
- The level of certainty demonstrated by the witness at the time of confrontation; and
- Length of time between the crime and the confrontation.
There are three types of suppression motions that each protects a defendant's right to a fair trial. A motion to suppress can keep physical evidence, a confession or admission, or a pretrial identification out of trial. Most of the time, the motion will be heard before trial and any testimony from the motion hearing with not be used against the defendant at trial.