What is a Motion to Suppress?
Updated: Mar 13
A motion to suppress is a way to exclude evidence that the police got illegally. If you win a motion to suppress, the State cannot introduce the illegal evidence, and, usually, the case is dismissed.
Generally, motions to suppress seek to exclude unconstitutionally seized drug evidence, illegally gotten statements, or the identification of the perpetrator.
Motions to suppress can be filed for several reasons, including:
Illegal stop of car
Illegal search of car
Illegal search of house
Illegal search of person
Invalid lineup procedure
Invalid show-up identification
When Can the Police Stop My Car in Massachusetts?
Police can stop any vehicle they have probable cause to believe is involved in a criminal offense, including a traffic offense. Probable cause does not mean solid proof - just some evidence.
If the police see you run a red light, not wearing your seat belt, or even not maintaining your lane, they can stop you to write a ticket. This is true even if the police really stopped you for another reason - as long as you were not obeying traffic laws, the police can stop you.
However, police cannot keep you longer than necessary to complete the ticket. For example, they cannot hold you to have a drug-sniffing dog determine whether there are drugs inside your vehicle.
Similarly, if the police see you running from a crime scene or you match the description of someone who committed a crime, they can stop you and investigate.
When Can the Police Search My Car in Massachusetts?
Police can search any car when they have probable cause to suspect that evidence of a crime can be found inside. Again, probable cause does not mean conclusive proof - just some evidence.
Police can also search your car without probable cause if you give consent. You do not have to give consent if the police ask. If you have something in your car you don't want police to find, most of the time you do not want to give consent.
If police see drugs in plain view, they can search your car to investigate. Furthermore, if your license was suspended and there is no one authorized to drive the car, police can tow the vehicle and possibly conduct an inventory search.
When Can Police Search My House?
Police must generally have a warrant to enter your house unless there is some sort of emergency, normally referred to as exigent circumstances. You do not have to let the police in to your house without a warrant and you have the right to refuse consent to search.
Even if police have a warrant, the search can still be illegal if there was not probable cause for the warrant. This is why it's important to review the search warrant affidavit for possible problems.
A search of a home can also be illegal if local police execute a warrant outside of their jurisdiction or if they're not authorized to conduct the search.
What Happens if the Police Don't Give Me Miranda Warnings?
The police not advising you of your rights generally does not mean the case is automatically dismissed. It only means the police cannot use the statements you made.
That also only applies if you are in custody and police are interrogating you. Police do not have to give Miranda warnings if you are free to leave or they are not asking you questions.
Find out more here.
You do not have to speak to police, and it is generally better to exercise your right to remain silent if given the choice. Otherwise, the police will use what you say against you, even if you're completely innocent.
What Is an Illegal Identification?
If a witness identifies you in a way that was unduly suggestive, you can attempt to exclude the identification through a motion to suppress.
For example, if you were the only person in a live lineup, this is called a one-man show-up identification, and you could get your identification excluded. Furthermore, if police conduct a photo-spread and your picture stands out for some reason, that could be considered unduly suggestive and be excluded.
If the identification is excluded, the witness is generally prevented from pointing you out on the stand.
What if Someone Else's Rights Were Violated, Not Mine?
If someone else's house or car was illegally searched, you generally cannot get that evidence excluded, even if it is used against you. This is a concept called standing, and it means you cannot assert someone else's rights.
In Massachusetts, though, you can challenge the illegal search of someone else's home or car if you're charged with a possession offense. This is called automatic standing.
If you believe your case involves a possible illegal search, illegal stop, or illegal identification, you need an attorney experienced in suppressing evidence. I have filed dozens of motions to suppress and won many of them. I can help you win your case. Contact me now to set up an appointment.
If you need a criminal defense lawyer who will fight for you, call me now and set up a consultation at 617-256-8217. My office is located in Boston, Massachusetts, but I practice criminal defense in all Massachusetts courts.