Will A Jury Ever Be Aware That Evidence Was Suppressed?
Neither a jury nor trial judge should be aware of evidence that has been suppressed. In DWI and municipal court cases, very often the same judge who heard the evidence on the motion to suppress will also be the finder of fact at the trial. Due to his training, experience and position, the judge is deemed capable of separating what he or she heard in the motion to suppress from what he or she hears at the trial. Testimony from a motion to suppress cannot be incorporated into a trial unless the parties and the judge agree. In addition, the records on the motion to suppress should generally be kept separate from the record at trial, because the issues in each proceeding are different.
In motions to suppress, we’re dealing with preliminary questions regarding the reasonableness of the stop, probable cause to arrest or the probable cause for the issuance of the warrant. At trial, we are concerned about whether the state can prove the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. You may recall my discussion about how impairment can be provoked by field sobriety tests, even if that impairment is due to something other than alcohol or drugs. The motion to suppress stage is what gives rise to the need for an investigation. That is an opportunity for the state to bolster the opinion that impairment is due to alcohol or drugs, and it’s also an opportunity for the defendant to disprove that.
If we’re able to eliminate a breath test result or a blood test result at trial, then all of those alternative explanations for impairment are what we call reasonable doubt. The state may argue that the observational evidence or that the impairment that was observed during the field sobriety testing supports intoxication. If that impairment could be due to other things, such as nervousness, tiredness, distraction or physical impairment, then that’s what we call reasonable doubt at trial. That is also one reason why the state relies so heavily on the breath test and blood test evidence. The interpreter of observational evidence can be subjective, so it’s basically in the eye of the beholder.
While the police tend to look at everything a little bit suspiciously, the judge has to look at it more objectively. We don’t take the officer’s motives into account at the motion to suppress. Motivation, however, can be relevant at trial to the extent that it may color the testimony and raise questions about the officer’s credibility. The rules of evidence are slightly different in each proceeding, both because of the nature of the questions that the court must decide and because of the burden of proof that they must apply.
Will My Case Be Automatically Dismissed If My Motion To Suppress Evidence Is Granted?
If a motion to suppress is granted, the State has 30 days to appeal. Otherwise, whether your case will be automatically dismissed if the motion to suppress evidence is granted will depend on when suppression is granted. If the court were to determine that there was no reasonable basis to stop a car, then all evidence from that point moving forward would be suppressed, which generally means that the defendant is going to win. If it’s determined that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest, then the driving conduct could be considered as evidence, as could statements by the defendant. Without the evidence of a breath test or blood test result, the state’s case is very weak. At that point, the prosecutor may offer an alternative other than a trial or DWI conviction.
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