What is a Motion to Suppress Evidence in Illinois?
A motion to suppress evidence is a motion that is brought when you are seeking to keep some sort of evidence out of a trial. If there are grounds to suppress evidence or statements, then they would be excluded and not available to the prosecution.
What Are The Types of Motions That Are Typically Filed During a Criminal Case?
One of the most common types is a motion to quash and suppress evidence based on a bad stop. For example, if an officer pulls someone over based on their race, or pulls someone over who did absolutely nothing wrong, then that may be deemed a bad or improper stop. If an officer then decides to search the car without asking, then that would be grounds for a motion to suppress any evidence found during that search.
At some point, a judge has to make a determination as to whether or not the officer had probable cause to believe that a crime was committed or was about to be committed. That standard is what the judge decides on, and he has to hear objective, reasonable facts that would lead one to the conclusion that there was probable cause. If an officer is smart, it is very easy for them to get around this by saying, “The person didn’t use his turn signal to switch lanes.” However, it’s getting a little bit more difficult for officers to lie, because many now have video cameras built into their patrol cars that record everything right before and after the lights are turned on.
I had a motion to suppress and arrest on a DUI case where the officer said, “It was one-thirty in the morning and my person was swaying within his lane, he crossed the fog line, he crossed the white line and he made an abrupt turn.” When we watched a video from the exact viewpoint of the officer, we found that it just didn’t match up with what he was saying. In my mind, the officer illegally pulled over my client. He then smelled alcohol on my client’s breath, and my client did eventually blow a 0.11. That is enough to get convicted of a DUI, but we were able to run a motion to suppress on the basis of it being an unjustified stop to begin with. There is a doctrine called the Fruits of the Poisonous Tree, which basically says that if the officer is doing something against the law before he finds evidence, then everything that he finds is barred from evidence.
One problem that we encounter in drug cases is that drug enforcement cops who are working undercover will claim that they did not have the video camera in their car or that it wasn’t working. That all goes into the reasonableness of the officer’s testimony and the judge’s considerations when determining what happened. Drug units don’t usually make traffic stops for minor speeding or lane violations unless they really think that the person is a drug person.
There are other things that can be excluded, such as a confession that was beaten out of a person. This has been done to people throughout history, especially in regards to the expression of religious beliefs. The police use pretty brutal methods when they are quite sure in their mind that you are guilty. In Cook County during the 70s and 80s, there were quite a few murder cases wherein the police would extract false confessions from people. There were a lot of murder convictions, many of which were overturned due to DNA evidence. One method that was very popular with the Chicago Police Department when dealing with gang members involved putting a telephone book on the person’s head and then hitting the telephone book with a sledge hammer. The phone book would spread out the impact enough so that it wouldn’t leave a bruise or a contusion, but would cause excruciating pain. That was an effective method for getting people to say whatever the police wanted them to say. These are the types of things that you seek to suppress.
It’s important to understand that the police can absolutely lie to you and intentionally try to trick you. For example, let’s say two people burglarized a house and are driving away with the goods in the trunk of the car. A police officer then pulls them over, questions them and decides to tell one person that the other has already placed all of the blame on them. If that person was dumb, they might say, “No, she helped me do it.” In this example, the police tricked one person into admitting to the crime, which probably wouldn’t have happened if the cop did not lie. The Supreme Court has determined that this is perfectly legal for an officer to do, as long as there is no physical coercion involved. I once handled a DUI case in which the officer was videotaping a suspect and saying, “Don’t worry, this will never be used against you in the court of law.” Of course, it was used. What did the judge do? He upheld all of the evidence that the officer had.
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