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Motion to Suppress Evidence -- California Penal Code PC 1538.5

Posted by Raoul Severo | Oct 06, 2020 | 0 Comments

In a court trial, significant pieces of evidence play a crucial part in the conviction of the defendant. If they are strong enough to convince the prosecutor or the magistrate, then the decision will most likely lean towards the favor of the victim or of the law. On the other hand, if its validity is questionable, then the defendant may request for its retraction.

In legal terms, the process of preventing certain evidence from being used in a court trial is called “suppression of evidence”. This can only be done when a party files a motion to suppress evidence under California Penal Code PC 1538.5. The grounds for it can vary widely depending on the circumstances of the case. However, the legality of the collection process and the relevance of the evidence to the case at hand is the most commonly used reason for these types of motions.

Under PC 1538, the defendant may request the exclusion of a particular evidence being used against him/her if:

  • The evidence in question was illegally obtained;
  • The constitutional rights of the defendant were violated during the collection of the evidence;
  • The evidence in question is not relevant to the case; and/or
  • The evidence in question lacks credibility.

Let us discuss the aforementioned contexts listed above. A police officer must follow proper procedures, have a probable cause, a valid search warrant, or an arrest warrant in order to lawfully obtain criminal evidence. If a police officer, for example, illegally intrudes a person's home to confiscate a certain object, then the evidence in question was illegally obtained. Meanwhile, evidence may also be in the form of an oral or verbal account. If the officer fails to read the Miranda rights to the person being interrogated, then anything that the suspect will say cannot be used in court. Furthermore, the constitutional rights of the defendant were violated in this situation. Lastly, if the evidence is tampered or contaminated while under police custody, then the evidence in question lacks credibility.

With that in mind, motions to suppress evidence are commonly used in search-and-seizure cases, which almost always requires a search warrant. Let us suppose that a police officer suddenly approaches you and presents a search warrant to be conducted inside your residence. You oblige, and upon checking, they uncover multiple sachets of illegal drugs, which they confiscate. You immediately consult with your lawyer and you find out that the evidence they confiscated is not the one described in the warrant. For this reason, you file a motion to suppress the evidence. The validity of search warrants is also covered under PC 1538. 

Meanwhile, PC 1538.5 also states that all ‘tangible and intangible' evidences may be removed from court trials, which includes:

  • Firearm;
  • Written documents;
  • Audio recordings;
  • Alcohol intoxication test results;
  • Drug test results;
  • Fingerprints; and
  • DNA

Process of Motion to Suppress Evidence

If you strongly believe that an evidence being used against you in court violates the laws of the state, then you must file a motion to suppress evidence. Ideally, this should be filed by your attorney prior to your actual court hearing. Do not worry -- the other party is legally obliged to notify you of the evidence they will be using in court, so you will have enough time to discuss these to your lawyer. For ease in your part, we will be summarizing the steps below:

  • File a motion to suppress evidence in court
  • An arraignment or suppression hearing will be conducted for this concern
  • Your attorney will present the information or facts to support the claim that the evidence to be used against you is inadmissible or was illegally obtained
  • The court will weigh the presented details to discern whether to grant the motion to suppress evidence or not.

If the judge grants your request, the prosecutor will not be allowed to use that evidence on the actual trial. However, if the request is denied, then the prosecutor will be allowed to use that evidence on the actual trial. 

Winning Your Motion to Suppress Evidence with a Criminal Defense Attorney

It is definitely hard to prove your case by yourself, let alone a motion to suppress evidence. This is because you have counterattack all questions raised by the judge to you as well as present your information in a logical and reasonable manner. Challenging your appeal is part of the judge's work, and it can sometimes be frustrating. With that said, it is best to contact a criminal defense lawyer to represent you during these events. They will be able to distinguish the best defense or negotiations depending on the facts of your case.

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