What is a motion to suppress in Florida?
Answer: So a motion to suppress is where a defense or as a defendant you allege that the conduct of law enforcement was unlawful, meaning they searched your car even when you told them “no,” or they just searched the car without even asking you. It usually involves a piece of evidence that is discovered. And if that piece of evidence comes into court or is testified to by law enforcement, it would probably convict you of the crime. So it sometimes can be a traffic stop. It can sometimes be a piece of evidence. But what happens is, the defense lawyer raises an issue about how the evidence was obtained. The lawyer then files what we refer to as a “motion to suppress,” saying, “Okay, while the burden shifts to the prosecutor for the prosecutor to establish that the stop of the vehicle was lawful or the way that in which they obtained the evidence was lawful.”Ultimately, the judge makes the decision on whether or not the evidence should be suppressed. So the judge listens to the testimony—this happens, just so you know—outside in the presence of a jury, or it happens in a courtroom prior to trial. It’s typically a pretrial motion that is filed by the defense. And ultimately, the decision is rendered by a judge and if the judge finds that the way in which the statement or confession or evidence was obtained was unlawful, then the judge has the power to suppress it and tell the state that, “Hey you cannot use this evidence.”
In situations involving DUI cases, if the judge determines that the stop of the person’s vehicle was unlawful, then anything that comes after the stop is gone. Field sobriety exercises, statements, breath test. And in essence, it leaves the government with no evidence to present at a trial if the judge determines that the stop or the initial police contact was unlawful. That’s the way you win cases, that’s the way you get reductions of cases, and that’s the best hope that a defendant will often have in getting a reduced charge, or getting what we call, “null process or dismissal.”