Had Too Much? How Clients Can Beat A DUI With A Motion to Suppress
I often have clients that are pretty lit up. Drunk, wasted, whatever you want to call it any jury in the world would convict them. A lot of peope in their position think they have to plea guilty because there is no other choice. HOWEVER, if the cops screwed up even a person with a .333 breath result who was driving all over the road and admitted drinking 19 beers can beat a DUI. The question most of my clients have is how...the answer is a Motion to Suppress.
A Motion to Suppress (MTS) is a tool in the arsenal of a criminal defense attorney. It is a motion to force the prosecution to prove that certain evidence was obtained in accordance with the Constitution and if the evidence is inadmissible get the Judge to throw it out. In its most basic form it is an argument that some of the evidence should be thrown out because it was obtained in violation of your Constitutional rights. If the cops complied with the Constitution and the law then a MTS will likely fail. But if the cops did something wrong and violated your rights than evidence that "stems from the fruit of the poisonous" tree is thrown out by the Judge.
The first step is evaluating the Discovery (police reports, breath results, videotapes, ect) and determining if you have a valid MTS. If there is something that can be suppressed the first step is for your attorney to write the motion. After that, your attorney gets a date from the Judges' judicial assistant to argue the motion and coordinates with prosecutor and Judge to have the motion heard.
There is no purpose in filing a MTS that has no merit. This will only piss off the prosecutor and or judge. The prosecutor is the party you are negotiating with and the Judge is the person that sentences you so it is a BAD idea to make them angry--unless it is necessary.
In a DUI Case a MTS is filed for a variety of reasons. The most common is probably the stop motion. In this motion I argue that the cops had no valid reason to pull over or stop my client so anything they found afterwards should be thrown out. The cops need a reason to stop you...they can't pull you over for no reason.
As such, if one of my clients is pulled over for running over a couple lane markers, driving maybe a few too many MPH over the speed limit, or doing something that I believe the police should NOT have pulled them over for (based on the caselaw) I am filing a motion. This is a very specific area of the law so you need a good attorney. There are TONS of motions that can be filed depending on the facts of the case. A couple of examples: A motion can be filed because the breathalyzer is no good, the cops failed to read you your rights or follow protocol, or the cops didn't have enough of a reason or suspicion to think you were DUI. A good DUI attorney knows where to look and find the holes in the prosecution's case. Once they do, they write the motion and argue it.
At the hearing the prosecution bears the burden of making sure the evidence should be upheld. This means that the prosecutor puts the cop or other evidence-gatherer on the stand and asks them questions in an attempt to prove the motion should be denied. Cops and prosecutors work together on their testimony and often times the prosecutor helps refresh the memory of the officer. Once the prosecution has its turn the defense attorney is permitted to ask their own questions (cross-examine) in an attempt to pick apart what the Officer said on the stand--and hopefully to get them to say something they shouldn't say. A successful attorney knows where he is going and what questions to ask.
Once the prosecution finishes asking the questions of their witnesses (keep in mind a good defense attorney knows where and when to object) the defense is permitted to put on their own witnesses. TALK TO YOUR ATTORNEY FIRST before getting on the stand during a MTS because it is sworn testimony. You do not have to testify at a MTS.
Once the testimony is finished both lawyers get up and argue. The defense attorney argues that the evidence should be suppressed based on the written motion, testimony, facts, caselaw, and any other relevant factors. The prosecutor argues that the evidence should withstand the motion based on his/her interpretation of the law and facts.
In the end the Judge makes the final decision whether or not the motion should be granted (good for you!) or denied (proceed with the case accordingly). A Judge can grant some portions of the motion and deny other portions. If the Judge grants the motion in whole it is likely the prosecution will not have enough evidence to proceed. For example, if a Judge agrees with me that a stop is invalid then the other evidence the prosecution has will likely be inadmissible and they will have to drop the case.
If you hire a competent attorney they will be familiar with the caselaw, courtroom procedure, and liklihood of success. I never advise a client pay me to file a motion that doesn't have a good shot at winning, but this option is definitely available for anyone---even those persons that are VERY drunk.