Can Either Side Challenge or Appeal the Judge’s Decision on a Motion to Suppress?
Yes. There are two ways this can happen.
The first way is after a “dispositive” motion to suppress. If your defense attorney and the state agree that the evidence you’re trying to suppress is so important that you will win if it’s suppressed or the state will win if the evidence comes in, both sides can agree that the motion to suppress is “dispositive,” meaning that the state will dismiss the case if they lose and you will plead guilty if you lose. It’s common when agreeing that a motion to suppress is dispositive, for both sides to agree to reserve the right of appeal if they lose. So even if you win and your case is dismissed, the state can appeal and argue to an appellate court that the judge got it wrong. On the other hand, if you lose, you can appeal and argue the same thing.
The second way is after a “non-dispositive” motion to suppress. If the evidence isn’t so key that you’d still have a chance of winning at trial even if it came in, you’ll have a non-dispositive motion to suppress right before trial. Since both sides will press forward with trial no matter the outcome, the appeal is going to depend on the outcome of the trial. If you’re found not guilty, then the case is over with. If you’re found guilty, then you can appeal the judge’s decision to let the evidence in, or, if the judge suppressed the evidence and you were found guilty anyway, the state can cross-appeal the judge’s decision to suppress the evidence.
When and Where Does a Hearing for a Motion to Suppress Evidence Take Place?
It depends on the judge’s schedule and the type of motion to suppress.
If it’s a dispositive motion to suppress, there will be a hearing scheduled for a particular date and time. If it’s a non-dispositive motion to suppress, there will be a hearing right before or immediately after jury selection in your trial. The hearings will most likely be heard in the same courtroom and by the same judge, that’s been presiding over your case since it was filed.
There doesn’t always have to be a hearing on a motion to suppress. If both sides agree, they can stipulate to what witnesses would testify to and they can submit affidavits from the witnesses instead of having them come down to court to testify at a hearing. I haven’t yet come across a case where I’d agree to affidavits instead of live testimony; it would have to be an exceptional case. It’s too easy to for the state to coach a witness into saying the right things in an affidavit, and you lose your ability to cross-examine that witness by agreeing to an affidavit.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Decision on a Motion to Suppress Hearing?
Most of the time, the judge will make a decision on a motion to suppress immediately after the hearing ends. If you’re in front of a judge who likes to decide motions to suppress a fair amount of time before trial, there may be a delay of a few days or a week or more.
Judges who are deliberative and slow in deciding motions to suppress are not very common. For the vast majority of judges, you are going to get a ruling immediately after the hearing is over or the same day of the hearing. Most judges announce their decision orally on the record and follow that up at the with written reasons if either side requests it. The written reasons can take longer much longer to get, but the exact timeframe depends on the individual judge.
Is the Jury Ever Aware of Any Evidence Being Suppressed?
No, evidence being suppressed is something that is always kept from the jury.
There are rare circumstances where evidence that was suppressed can be used in a trial, but if the defense is doing their job that circumstance is never going to happen. For example, if a confession is suppressed, the state can bring in that confession, if the defendant decides to testify. Or if evidence was suppressed during a search, and a defendant mistakenly mentions that evidence during his testimony, that evidence can now be used against him. It’s up to your lawyer to know, and guard against, situations where suppressed evidence can be introduced at a trial. Most of the time, it’s as simple as advising a client not to testify or to make sure not to mention any evidence that has been suppressed.
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