If you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense in Virginia, you face harsh punishments and could have a permanent criminal record if convicted. You need to mount a strong defense strategy to fight the charges you face.
One way that you may be able to get your charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious crime is to file a motion to suppress evidence. However, it is extremely unlikely that you will be successful unless you have the help of a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
How Can Filing a Motion to Suppress Evidence Help in a Criminal Case?
In a criminal case, defendants are presumed to be innocent unless they are found guilty of the crime they are accused of committing. The prosecutor must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a high standard to meet. If you file a motion to suppress evidence, you are asking the judge not to allow certain evidence to be used against you in your criminal case.
Filing a motion to suppress evidence can help you whether you are facing misdemeanor charges, such as reckless driving, or more serious felony charges, such as auto theft or child pornography. Here are two ways filing a motion to suppress evidence can help:
- If the evidence excluded is crucial to establishing the elements of the crime, the judge could rule that the prosecutor would be unable to prove their case and may dismiss the charges against you.
- When the prosecutor has other evidence of your guilt, the case may not be dismissed. However, the exclusion of this evidence could weaken the Commonwealth’s case enough that the prosecutor would be willing to enter into a favorable plea agreement where the charges are significantly reduced and the punishment is less severe.
Common Grounds to File a Motion to Suppress Evidence in Virginia
You can file a motion to suppress evidence—even if you believe you are guilty of the crime you are charged with committing—if you have legal grounds to argue that the evidence should not be used against you. These motions are often based on misconduct by law enforcement officials or violation of your constitutional rights under the U.S. constitution. Here are common grounds for filing a motion to suppress:
Unlawful Search and Seizure
Under the Fourth Amendment, you have a right not to have yourself or your property illegally searched. The police are only permitted to stop you and conduct a search if they probable cause to believe a crime was committed or have obtained a search warrant signed by a judge. If the search and seizure is determined to be unlawful, any evidence obtained could not be used against you.
Lack of Miranda Warnings
A police officer must advise you of your Miranda rights if they take you into custody. They must tell you of your right to remain silent, that any statements you make can be used against you, and of your right to an attorney. If they do not tell you of these rights or question you after you invoke your rights, any incriminating statements made by you may be excluded from evidence.
Statements Made Under Coercion
The police may coerce you to make statements that are incriminating, such as a confession. Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may be able to get the statements suppressed.
Chain of Custody Problems
When collecting evidence in your criminal case, the police are required to follow strict procedures when handling and storing it. This protects against the evidence being tampered with or being mixed up with other defendants’ evidence. If the police violate these rules, evidence, such as DNA test results, drugs, weapons, or other evidence that could be used to prove your guilt, could be excluded.
Witness Identification Issues
The police may use witness’ identification of you as a basis to arrest you. They may have you identified through a police line-up. If they suggested that you are the suspect, refuse to allow your attorney to be present, or do not include other individuals who look like you in the line-up, you may be able to suppress the witness’ testimony.
Grounds for Suppression of Evidence in DUI Cases
If you were arrested for DUI, you may have several grounds to argue that evidence of your intoxication should be suppressed. Even if you were driving when intoxicated, this can result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced. Here are common grounds for a motion to suppress evidence:
- The police did not have probable cause to stop you.
- The field sobriety tests were conducted improperly in violation of strict federal standards.
- DUI or drug tests were not administered properly, or the machines used in this testing were not maintained or calibrated correctly.
- There were errors in the handling, testing, or storage of DUI or drug results.
Have you been charged with a traffic, misdemeanor, or felony offense in Virginia? Our experienced criminal defense lawyers are here to aggressively defend you so that you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Call our Manassas office today to schedule your free consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.