What Is a Motion to Suppress Evidence in Texas?
A motion to suppress evidence is a motion filed by a defense attorney in a criminal case asking the judge to throw out (i.e. suppress) evidence that was obtained by the police or a private party because it was obtained in violation of the constitution or a Texas law.
In most states, you can only get evidence suppressed if the police seized it in violation of the constitution. Texas, however, has a special, more expansive law that allows defense attorneys to suppress not just evidence obtained by the police, but evidence obtained by anyone, and not just in violation of the constitution, but also in violation of any other state law.
If a judge grants a motion to suppress, the evidence that was obtained can’t be used against you at your trial except in very limited circumstances.
When Is a Motion to Suppress Evidence Generally Filed in a Criminal Case?
A motion to suppress evidence is generally filed at any time before trial. It can be filed as late as the day of the trial before jury selection starts or as early as a couple of days after being retained on the case. Whether a motion to suppress should be filed, or whether it should be filed at all, depends on the facts of the case.
Is There Any Type of Evidence That Cannot be Suppressed?
No. Regardless of what form the evidence takes, if it was obtained illegally, it can be subject to a motion to suppress.
How Can a Motion to Suppress Evidence Help my Criminal Case?
Often, a motion to suppress evidence can result in a dismissal. If the evidence is the key evidence against you and the judge grants the motion to suppress, the state may have no choice but to dismiss the case because they can’t prove the case without that evidence.
Sometimes the evidence that’s subject to a motion to suppress isn’t the key evidence against you so the state will go forward with a trial anyway, but the more evidence suppressed before trial, the better your chances at trial.
What Factors Does the Judge Consider When Deciding Whether or Not to Suppress Evidence?
The first factor a judge looks at is witness credibility.
For example, let’s say there’s a traffic stop with no dash camera video. The officer says that you failed to signal a lane change and that’s why he pulled you over. You say, “No, I did signal my lane change and the cop is lying.” In a he said/he said scenario like this, the officer will testify, you will testify, and any other witnesses will testify as to what happened right before the stop. With no physical evidence to determine who is telling the truth, the judge is going to make a judgment call about whom they believe, you or the officer. That’s an extreme example where a motion to suppress would just be decided by credibility alone.
The second factor a judge looks at is whether the facts of your case fit other cases where evidence has been suppressed.
Sometimes, the facts are undisputed, but there’s uncertainty (because of a lack of prior cases or a poorly worded law) over whether what the officer in your case did was illegal or not. Your lawyer will make legal arguments on your behalf for why the law should be interpreted in a way that favors you, the prosecutor will argue why the law should be interpreted in a way that favors the state, and the judge will make his or her decision.
The law on the Fourth Amendment (the amendment to the Constitution that protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures) is constantly changing, and a search that used to be illegal may suddenly become legal due to a new Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals case (or vice versa). It’s important to have a lawyer on your side who is up-to-date on current Fourth Amendment case law to know if the evidence in your case might be able to be suppressed under new case law.
What Is the Process for Filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence?
All it takes is typing up a motion listing out the arguments for suppression, filing it with the court, and serving a copy on the prosecutor. After that, you set the motion to suppress for a hearing. Most judges will only do hearings on motions to suppress with an agreement that you plead guilty if you lose or the state dismiss the case if you win. Otherwise, a hearing on a motion to suppress is “carried with trial,” meaning that it will happen very shortly before your trial begins.
For more information on Motions to Suppress Evidence in Texas, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (713) 936-4521 today.
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