Friday, April 10, 2009

Suppression hearings...what, where, when and why

When you retain an attorney to fight for your rights, that attorney may or may not do a good job explaining the process from A to Z in a way that you understand and puts you at ease.  Tonight, I want to take a few minutes explaining to you in plain language, the meaning and importance of a suppression hearing as it pertains to your criminal defense.

WHAT is a suppression hearing?  A suppression hearing is an evidentiary hearing conducted in front of a presiding Judge or Justice in your criminal case.  The hearing is nearly always testimonial in nature, ie, meaning one or more witnesses must testify and the witness is subject to cross-examination.   The goal of a motion to suppress is to exclude evidence or statements illegally obtained and/or in violation of your state and federal constitutional rights.  In order to exclude or "suppress" that evidence, a hearing must be held which will invariably impact the direction or defensibility of your case.

WHERE does a suppression hearing take place?  It will always take place in the courthouse where your trial will be conducted but not always by the Judge or Justice assigned to preside over the trial.

WHEN does a suppression hearing take place?  A motion to suppress normally must be filed within 21 days of your arraignment.  However, the motion usually isn't heard until many months into the case.  During this time, your lawyer should be constantly reevaluating your case and your motion to determine its viability and chance of success.

WHY should your attorney file a motion to suppress?  Because if your attorney fails to file the motion within the 21 day time period and a month or two into the case determines that you have good grounds to file a motion, it is too late.  It a heck of a lot easier to withdraw a motion to suppress than it is to request leave of court to file one after the deadline has passed.  Another good reason to file a motion to suppress and conduct a hearing is because the State's case may fall apart through aggressive cross-examination.  The truth is the State wants to believe their case is bullet proof... it is also true that in many instances, the State's case is anything but bullet proof.