Can a Decision by the Judge on a Motion to Suppress Be Challenged?
Yes, the judge’s decision regarding a motion to suppress can be challenged. The prosecution can challenge a ruling that favors the defendant immediately. In other words, if the judge rules specific evidence is inadmissible and the case may be dismissed because the evidence cannot be used at trial, the prosecution can file an immediate appeal.
However, if a defendant loses a motion to suppress evidence, the defendant generally has to wait until after the trial and verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, the defendant may appeal. A matter for appeal would be whether the court erred in denying the motion to suppress and allow the evidence to be used at trial.
When Are Motions to Suppress Filed in Criminal Cases?
A motion to suppress evidence is a pretrial motion in criminal cases. The defendant files the motions before the trial begins to ask the judge to prohibit evidence obtained through an illegal search or seizure from being used at trial. The court may hear a motion to suppress evidence at a preliminary hearing or pretrial hearing.
Suppression Motions Filed Under California Penal Code §1538.5
California Penal Code §1538.5 states that a defendant may file a motion to suppress evidence on the following grounds:
- A warrantless search or seizure was unreasonable; OR,
- The police officers had a search warrant, but the warrant:
- Was insufficient
- The police seized property or evidence not described in the warrant
- Lack of probable cause for issuing the warrant
- Law enforcement performed the search in a way that violated the United States Constitution or the California Constitution
- Other violations of state or federal constitutional standards
At the suppression hearing, the prosecution and defense lawyer argue matters of law and how they apply to the motion to suppress evidence. The court may hear witness testimony and oral arguments or written memorandums from the parties. The parties may cross-examine each witness.
Typically, judges may take up to 30 days after a hearing to consider motions to suppress evidence in DUI cases. The judge may require the defense attorney and prosecution to file memorandums of law. It could take longer than 30 days to receive a decision. The attorneys must have time to conduct further legal research into relevant case law and statutes before preparing their memorandums.
The court may find any evidence illegally obtained inadmissible. There is no evidence that is exempt from a motion to suppress evidence.
How Can a Motion to Suppress Evidence Help in My California DUI Case?
The motion to suppress can result in crucial evidence being inadmissible. Without that evidence, the prosecution may not be able to prove you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
For example, after filing a motion, the court finds that the police officers obtained a warrant for a blood draw without probable cause. Therefore, the chemical test results are inadmissible.
Without the blood test results, the prosecution cannot prove per se DUI charges. In other words, the prosecutor has no way of proving your blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds the legal limit. The legal limit for BAC in California is:
- .08% or higher for drivers 21 years of age or older
- .01% or higher for drivers under 21 years of age
- .01% or higher for anyone driver on DUI probation
- .04% or higher for a driver operating a motor vehicle that requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- .04% or higher if a passenger for hire is in the vehicle at the time of the DUI offense
Therefore, the prosecutor must prove that you were operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs under California Vehicle Code §23152(b). It could be much harder to prove impaired driving without chemical tests or other evidence suppressed by the judge.
Another way a motion to suppress evidence can help in your drunk driving case is during plea agreement negotiations. A prosecutor who cannot present all evidence during a trial might be more willing to negotiate favorable terms for a plea bargain.
The best result of a motion to suppress evidence in a DUI case is the dismissal of the drunk driving charges. A California DUI defense lawyer carefully analyzes all evidence and the circumstances of your DUI arrest. Then, if law enforcement officers violated your rights, the criminal defense attorney files the motion to suppress the evidence as soon as possible.
What Types of Evidence Can a Judge Suppress in a DUI Case?
Evidence that could be suppressed in a drunk driving case includes, but is not limited to:
- The results of field sobriety tests (FSTs)
- Breath results from a roadside breathalyzer
- Observations by police officers during a DUI stop
- Eyewitness testimony from other individuals
- Video from dash cams, traffic cameras, and other sources
- Statements made by you during the traffic stop or DUI arrest
- Physical evidence obtained during a search of your vehicle or person
- Results of chemical tests for BAC levels or drugs, including breath, blood, and urine tests
- Evidence gathered a DUI checkpoint
When the judge rules evidence inadmissible, the jurors never know about the evidence. So, for example, if the judge throws out the BAC results from a urine test, the jurors never know that you had a BAC of .10% when officers arrested you for driving under the influence.
Who Has the Burden of Proving Evidence is Admissible at Trial?
Even though the defendant files a motion to suppress evidence, the prosecution must prove that a warrantless search and seizure was reasonable. However, if the police officers obtained a warrant, the defendant has the burden of proving the warrant was not legal.
Do not assume that the police officers did their job correctly and the evidence gathered is admissible in court. Police officers routinely make mistakes and violate civil rights. A person may be unaware that the police did anything wrong.
Therefore, talk to an experienced California DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer reviews your case to determine DUI defenses. A potential defense to drunk driving is illegally gathered evidence. However, other DUI defenses could help you beat driving under the influence charges in California.
Common DUI Defenses Used in California Drunk Driving Cases
There are many defense strategies a California DUI lawyer can use to challenge drunk driving charges. However, four of the most common defenses used in DUI cases include:
Lack of Probable Cause
The police officers must have a reasonable basis for a traffic stop. For example, the driver violated a traffic law, or the officer witnessed driving behavior associated with impaired driving. The police officer must also have probable cause for the DUI arrest.
A lack of probable cause could result in evidence being inadmissible in court. The police officer must justify the search and seizure without a warrant for evidence to be used against the driver.
Inaccuracy of Field Sobriety Tests
Police officers observe a person’s performance on field sobriety tests for signs of impairment. However, FSTs can be unreliable. Many factors could result in inaccurate findings.
For example, a driver’s health conditions could make it difficult to perform the tests. Bright lights from oncoming traffic and uneven surfaces can result in inaccurate results. If a police officer provides confusing or incorrect instructions to perform the test, the driver might make mistakes that make them appear intoxicated.
Lack of Evidence of Impairment
The prosecution has the burden of proving your alcohol or drugs impaired your driving ability at the time of your DUI arrest. Without a chemical test results of a BAC level at .08 or above, the prosecution might base their case on the police officer’s observations.
Your California DUI attorney challenges the officer’s observations. For example, the attorney might request copies of the officer’s employment record and review other DUI cases to gather information to use in court when cross-examining the officer.
Challenges to BAC Tests
BAC tests include pre-arrest tests and post-DUI arrest tests. You can refuse to take a roadside breath test or saliva test without penalty. However, after an arrest for drunk driving, you are presumed to have consented to a chemical test for BAC under California’s implied consent laws. Refusing a chemical test after a DUI arrest results in automatic driver’s license suspension.
Your CA DUI attorney may challenge the accuracy of chemical tests on several grounds including:
- You have a medical condition that affects the results of a chemical test
- The lab used fermented blood or contaminated samples
- The lab or law enforcement officers improperly collected or stored blood or urine samples
- A breathalyzer machine malfunctioned, was not calibrated correctly, or was not maintained
- A police officer administered a breath test incorrectly
- Mouth alcohol caused a high false BAC level because of dental work, GERD, heartburn, acid reflux, or burping
- Ketosis because of diabetes of low-carb diets caused a falsely high BAC level
Do not give up before you start fighting. Make the prosecution prove its case by fighting DUI charges with the help of a California DUI defense lawyer. A DUI conviction results in a criminal record, which could have long-term consequences in several areas of your life. Do not plead guilty to DUI charges without seeking legal advice.