Step Eight: Motions Hearings

It would be virtually impossible to cover all the various motions hearings that can accompany a criminal case in a short blog. Perhaps in the future I will address more individually but here I will simply cover a couple of the more important hearings.

 MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE

Without question, one of the most important and effective motions that can be filed by defense counsel is a Motion to Suppress Evidence. While most commonly used in drug cases, such a motion can be used in a myriad of other type cases including murder, rape, armed robbery and even DUI cases. The purpose of the motion (as you may have guessed) is to try to prevent the State from introducing into trial evidence that is damaging to the defendant. In a drug case, that evidence would be the drugs with which the defendant is charged. In a murder case, it might be the murder weapon or blood evidence somehow linking the defendant with the crime.

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A motion to suppress is based on the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and its Georgia Constitutional counterpart. The 4th Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches of our homes and persons and the seizure of evidence to be used against us. The law surrounding when police can search our persons or property is vast and often depends of what is being searched, under what basis and when the search is conducted. For instance, officers cannot search a home without a warrant (unless ‘exigent circumstances’ exist warranting the intrusion) but they can search a vehicle without a warrant under appropriate circumstances (they have a ‘reasonable and articulable suspicion’ that drugs or contraband is in the car or it is a search following an arrest or impound of the car). It is important that your lawyer have a firm grasp of the law regarding searches and seizures so that he/she can spot a suppression issue if it exists in your case.

 EXCLUDING EVIDENCE IN A CRIMINAL CASE

If the police have violated a defendant’s rights in conducting a search and seizing evidence, the law provides that the judge in the case can exclude that evidence from the trial of the case. The impact of that in a drug case is that the State cannot introduce the drugs they’ve charged the defendant with in the trial. No drugs equals no case. Obviously, a proper motion to suppress can be an incredibly powerful weapon in defense of a criminal case.

 CONFESSIONS

Another important motion, though one that is often not as effective, is one that prevents a defendant’s statement or confession from being introduced against him at trial. These are often known as Jackson/Denno hearings and are based on the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and its Georgia counterpart. Again, the law surrounding this is vast and varied. One primary concern (although there are other issues as well) is whether a defendant is actually under arrest at the time the confession is made. If he is, he must be advised of his Miranda warnings (that he has the right to remain silent, etc). If the defendant is not under arrest (even if the police know they are about to arrest him) officers have no obligation to advise the person of his Miranda rights. If the police get a confession in violation of the 5th Amendment, that confession cannot be used against the defendant at trial.

 

If you or someone you know has been arrested, please give me a call today for a free and confidential discussion about the matter. My office number is 404-474-2531.

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