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Motion to Suppress: Getting Evidence Excluded

Haskett Williams Monaghan Attorneys at Law Aug. 23, 2023

Facing a criminal charge is a serious and frightening experience. It may look like police and prosecutors “have the goods” on you, but you need to remember that the burden of proof is high. The Bill of Rights to the Constitution provides you with several protections, and one of them is that prosecutors must present evidence that substantiates their charge “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Another line of defense applies even before the trial begins—if it ever begins—and that is, if police or prosecutors violated your Constitutional rights, evidence can be suppressed before any courtroom action begins. In other words, the evidence cannot be submitted.

In this regard, illegal searches and seizures stand out as a common violation resulting in a motion to suppress the evidence obtained. If prosecutors suddenly find the centerpiece of their case inadmissible, they may decide to drop the charge altogether for lack of other evidence, or it may weaken their argument to the point that they fail to convince the jury. 

If you’re facing a criminal charge in or around Bend, Oregon, contact us at Haskett Williams Monaghan Attorneys at Law. We are criminal defense attorneys who will examine the evidence against you and file any warranted motions to suppress during pre-trial proceedings, and if matters go to court, will aggressively defend your rights, aiming for the best possible outcome.  

We proudly serve clients not only in Bend but also in the surrounding areas of Redmond, Sun River, Prineville, and Sisters. 

What Is a Motion to Suppress? 

Prosecutors must share the evidence they have against you with your attorney. Your attorney can then question you about how this evidence was obtained to determine whether your Constitutional or state rights were violated. The example above of an illegal search and seizure is one situation that can warrant a motion to suppress. The motion is presented to the presiding judge before the trial begins. 

According to the Oregon Uniform Court Trial Rules, all motions to suppress: 

“(a) Must cite any constitutional provision, statute, rule, case, or other authority upon which it is based; and 

(b) Must include in the motion document the moving party's brief, which must sufficiently apprise the court and the adverse party of the arguments relied upon. If the evidence sought to be suppressed was obtained without a warrant, it is sufficient for the moving party to so state.”

Upon receiving a motion to suppress, the judge can rule one way or another on his or her own authority, or can schedule a hearing, during which both defense and prosecutors can present their sides of the issue. 

What Are Common Grounds for a Motion to Suppress? 

Getting back to illegal searches and seizures, which is a common ground for filing a motion to suppress, suppose this takes place: You’re walking down the street doing nothing suspicious looking, and a police officer stops you and frisks you—searches your person. He discovers cocaine in your pocket and hauls you in. Soon, you’re facing illegal drug possession charges. However, the officer had no “probable cause” to search you, so it was an illegal search and seizure.

Let’s take this another step: Authorities obtain a warrant to search your home because they have suspicion that you’re running an illegal Ponzi scheme to bilk “investors.” The warrant authorizes them to seize your hard drives, laptop, bank records, and other documentary evidence. In the process, they discover a stash of a controlled substance. They use that evidence to charge you with distributing and selling an illegal substance. Since the warrant didn’t authorize a search for drugs, however, this evidence can be challenged under what is called “fruit of the poisoned tree,” which means it was illegally obtained. The search warrant didn’t specify looking for controlled substances.

Other grounds for a motion to suppress include: 

  • FAILURE TO GIVE A MIRANDA RIGHTS WARNING: Under police or prosecutor questioning, you may even confess to a crime, but if they failed to read you your Miranda Rights, even that confession can become inadmissible. The Miranda warning states, in part: “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” 

  • CHAIN-OF-CUSTODY ERRORS: If physical evidence obtained—even blood tests in a DUI case—is mishandled and mixed up with evidence from another case, or not properly labeled to prove it was yours, the evidence’s credibility can be challenged. 

  • ILLEGAL OUT-OF-COURT IDENTIFICATIONS: If you were identified as the perpetrator of a crime through a line-up or mug shot review, and one of the personnel conducting the identification process made an improper suggestion, the results of the process can be challenged. For instance, when your mug comes up, or you’re in a line-up, and someone conducting the identification singles you out and suggests, “Doesn’t he look like the one?”, that could void the identification. 

We Fight for Your Future 

If you’re facing a criminal charge in Bend or in neighboring communities, you need to have a criminal defense attorney represent you from the beginning, even before police or prosecutors attempt to question you. Remember, you have a right to remain silent, so contact us to represent you before answering questions. 

Once prosecutors share their evidence with us, we can work with you on uncovering any violations of your rights that could lead to a motion, or motions, to suppress. Your future is at stake, so contact us at Haskett Williams Monaghan Attorneys at Law as soon as you’ve been taken in, or before if you suspect an investigation or charge may be forthcoming. We will aggressively defend you and protect your rights.