In a DUI context, we are typically talking about a motion to suppress. We argue that evidence should be suppressed because it was illegally obtained through an unlawful search or unlawful seizure. Under the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine, any fruits of the illegal activity must be suppressed.
You should always begin with the first event and take a chronological approach. You hope to spot the illegal conduct as early as possible since anything that occurs after the illegal activity is inadmissible. An example of an unlawful seizure would be if the officer had no basis to stop your vehicle. Anything that comes after that illegal stop would be deemed inadmissible because the officer should have never pulled you over in the first place.
The other big focus of a motion to suppress in a DUI case is the chemical test of your blood, breath or urine. If you have a BAC that comes back over the legal limit, we try to get that result thrown out so the jury would never even know about it. To get the result thrown out, we need to show that it was obtained illegally. If you consented to the test, then we need to argue that your consent was coerced or that it was not intelligently given. If we can prove that you did not knowingly and voluntarily consent to the test, then we can have your test thrown out. If the officer obtained the test through a search warrant, then we need to prove the judge had an insufficient basis for granting the search warrant or failed to follow the necessary procedures for granting the search warrant.
If we can successfully get your BAC result thrown out, then you are in a much better position. However, unlike an illegal stop which gets your whole case thrown out, an illegal chemical test just gets your BAC result thrown out. You could still face all the other original charges including DUI-Less Safe just based on everything that occurred prior to the test. Still, you are much more likely to succeed at trial if the jury never knows your BAC was over the legal limit.
Motions must be particularized to your facts. There is no one-size-fits-all motion, so you need to see the evidence to know what potential issues may exist. An effective motion applies established case law to the specific facts of your case to guide the court in making a favorable ruling.
After you file a particularized motion to suppress, the court will schedule your case for a motions hearing. At this hearing, the judge will hear testimony regarding the facts surrounding the issue being litigated. For example, if the issue is whether the officer had a basis to stop your vehicle, then the officer would have to testify under oath as to why they stopped your vehicle. If available, the dash cam video is played in conjunction with the officer’s testimony. You have an opportunity to cross-examine the officer and any of the state’s other witnesses. After the state’s last witness, the defense can present any evidence in support of our motion. Typically, that would mean you testifying and telling your side of the story as it specifically pertains to the vehicle stop. If we can present that evidence through another witness, then that is preferable so we can avoid putting you up on the witness stand prior to trial.
In sum, the state will try to present facts in favor of admissibility of the evidence while the defense presents facts in favor of inadmissibility. If there are conflicting facts, the judge has the discretion to resolve any conflicts based on the judge’s own credibility determination. Once the facts are on record, we then circle back in our closing argument and tie those facts into the established law on the issue. The court will either rule from the bench that day or take the issue under advisement for a ruling in the near future.
So, there is a legal and a factual aspect to motions. Just like at trial, there is no guarantee the facts will bear out exactly as you wish at the hearing. Therefore, sometimes the best motions are ones that are never litigated. Instead, the prosecution and defense will both compromise on a plea resolution, otherwise it is an all-or-nothing approach to the hearing, meaning that the judge either grants or denies the motion, and outside of an appeal, that issue is settled. The jury will not be deciding the merits of the motion at trial. Instead, at trial, the only question the jury is deciding is whether the state has presented proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the alleged offenses.
For more information on DUI Law in Georgia, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you seek by calling (470) 728-1725 today.