Suppression of evidence is a term used in the United States legal system to describe the lawful or unlawful act of preventing evidence from being shown in a trial. This could happen for several reasons. For example, if a judge believes that the evidence in question was obtained illegally, the judge can rule that it not be shown in court. It could also refer to a prosecutor improperly or intentionally hiding evidence that does not go with their case (their theory of what happened) and could suggest or prove to the judge or jury that the defendant is not guilty or that (s)he is legally obligated to show the defense. In the latter case, this would be a violation of the 5th amendment to the United States Constitution. Also Rule 3.8 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct requires prosecutors to "make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense." (This is not for all states.) This can result in a mistrial in the latter case and/or the dismissal of the prosecutor.
Motion to suppress
In common law legal systems[further explanation needed], a motion to suppress is a formal, written request to a judge for an order that certain evidence be excluded from consideration by the judge or jury at trial. In the United States, the term "motion to suppress" typically encompasses motions in criminal cases where the proposed basis for exclusion arises from the United States Constitution, a state constitution, or a specific statute permitting the exclusion of certain types of evidence (for instance, a complaint that police procedures in a given case violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures).
A motion to exclude evidence where the proposed basis for exclusion arises from the rules of evidence is more commonly termed a motion in limine. A motion to prevent the discovery of evidence is commonly called a motion for a protective order.
United States Law
In the United States, the motion to suppress stems from the exclusionary rule. As the U.S. Supreme Court stated in Simmons v. United States: "In order to effectuate the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, this Court long ago conferred upon defendants in federal prosecutions the right, upon motion and proof, to have excluded from trial evidence which had been secured by means of an unlawful search and seizure."
Because it is grounded in the right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures, a person must have standing to move to suppress evidence. In other words, one cannot object to evidence obtained by an illegal search if it was someone else's privacy that was violated.
On a federal level, a motion to suppress is set down in Rule 41(h) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
If the discovery of an item(s) was obtained by illegal means, it may still be allowed into evidence under some circumstances. These exceptions include:
- Inevitable discovery - if discovery of the evidence was inevitable via purely legal means
- Independent source - if the discovery involved a combination of legal and illegal means, but the illegality was of marginal significance, such that the evidence could have been discovered based on the legal source alone
- Standing - the violation affects the rights of someone other than the defendant, and the defendant does not have standing to complain
- Good faith - the illegality is not the fault of the law enforcement officers who obtained the evidence, who did so pursuant to a facially valid warrant granted by a neutral and detached magistrate.
- Attenuation - If the relationship between the illegality and the nature of the evidence obtained is reduced sufficiently for the evidence to be considered untainted (e.g., use of a booking photo from an unlawful arrest to identify the defendant in a lineup)
Evidence obtained as a result of Miranda violations is also subject to special analysis, depending on whether the statement is deemed voluntary or coerced, not merely whether police provided the appropriate warnings.
- Exclusionary Rule
- Legal motion
- Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
- Search and seizure
- Search incident to arrest
- Simmons v. United States, Page 390 U. S. 389
- here Archived 2010-09-25 at the Wayback Machine B. 2
- RAKAS V. ILLINOIS, 439 U. S. 128 (1978)
- As stated in Jones v. United States: "A person aggrieved by an unlawful search and seizure may move the district court for the district in which the property was seized for the return of the property and to suppress for use as evidence anything so obtained on the ground that (1) the property was illegally seized without warrant, or (2) the warrant is insufficient on its face, or (3) property seized is not that described in the warrant, or (4) there was not probable cause for believing the existence of the grounds on which the warrant was issued, or (5) the warrant was illegally executed. The judge shall receive evidence on any issue of fact necessary to the decision of the motion. If the motion is granted, the property shall be restored unless otherwise subject to lawful detention, and it shall not be admissible in evidence at any hearing or trial. The motion to suppress evidence may also be made in the district where the trial is to be had. The motion shall be made before trial or hearing unless opportunity therefore did not exist or the defendant was not aware of the grounds for the motion, but the court in its discretion may entertain the motion at the trial or hearing."