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Motion to Suppress Evidence and DUI Cases

Gavel and Books

What is a Motion to Suppress and How Does it Relate to DUI Cases?

Motions to suppress evidence are integral to successfully defending against OVI/DUI charges. The motion is a document filed with the court in your DUI case that claims some violation of your constitutional, statutory, or administrative rights and thus argues that some or all of the evidence against you should be considered inadmissible so that the prosecution will not be able to use it against you in your trial. A qualified DUI criminal defense attorney in Ohio can use a motion to suppress evidence to prevent the use of your breath, urine, or other drug tests, statements you made to police, or other evidence that the prosecution intends to use against you in your trial to prove that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, in violation of Ohio Revised Code section 4511.19.

As one of the most important tools that your defense attorney has in defending you against your DUI charges, a pretrial motion to suppress must be filed in order to challenge the admissibility of your chemical test that the prosecution will be using as the key evidence to prove your intoxication at the time of your arrest. If such a motion is not filed with the court, the tests and results will be considered automatically admissible against you at your trial. According to the Ohio Supreme Court, a motion to suppress’s purpose is to render “the state’s proof … so weak in its entirety that any reasonable possibility of effective prosecution has been destroyed.” State v. Davidson, 17 Ohio St.3d 132, 135, 477 N.E.2d 1141 (Ohio 1985). If your attorney is able to successfully convince the court to suppress your drug tests, it will become very likely that your attorney will also be able to have your entire case and the DUI charges against you dismissed because the prosecution will likely not have enough admissible evidence aside from the drug tests that could prove your guilt at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

In What Situations Could a Motion to Suppress Evidence Be Necessary?

Within the motion to suppress filed, your attorney will likely attack various aspects of the prosecution’s case against you, that could each lead to the evidence being suppressed and kept out of your trial. Some aspects of the prosecution’s case that are commonly attacked include the reason for the police officer’s contact with you, by claiming that the police officer did not have reasonable cause to pull you over in the first place, such as by showing video evidence that your headlights were actually on even though the officer claimed that you were stopped because you did not have your headlights turned on. Another potential challenge is against the law enforcement officer’s reason for asking you to step outside of your vehicle or the reason for administering the field sobriety tests on you. Your DUI defense attorney can challenge how the field sobriety tests or chemical tests were administered to you, as well as whether or not the equipment had been properly maintained and calibrated before being administered to test your levels of intoxication. If the police officer waited for more than 3 hours after you were stopped to administer chemical tests, your attorney will likely be successful in the motion to suppress those tests because Ohio law requires them to be administered within 3 hours of the alleged offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Lastly, your attorney could potentially argue that the officer did not observe you for at least 20 minutes before administering the chemical test to make sure that there was nothing that could have caused the test to produce an inaccurate reading, such as if you had just thrown up before being given the test, or if you had a gastrointestinal issue that caused an inaccurate reading on the breathalyzer test.

With your motion to suppress, your attorney may be able to suppress the chemical tests or suppress any statements made to police if you had not been properly read your Miranda rights when you were arrested and before you were questioned by police. If the officer gave you improper or inaccurate instructions regarding the field sobriety tests, the officer’s testimony about your performance in those tests could also be suppressed from evidence. If the law enforcement officer did not have probable cause to arrest you or stop your vehicle, to begin with, your attorney may be able to suppress all evidence obtained after that point, essentially guaranteeing that the DUI charges against you have to be dismissed.

Filing a motion to suppress and holding the ensuing hearing on the motion can also help your attorney prepare your defense by allowing your attorney to observe the arresting officer’s testimony about your DUI arrest which can help in deciding trial strategy as well as potentially present holes or inconsistencies in the testimony that can be exploited by your attorney to successfully defend against your charges. At the very least, filing a thorough motion to suppress shows the prosecution that you are serious about defending yourself against your DUI/OVI charges and could perhaps help your attorney negotiate a plea deal on your behalf.

In drafting the motion to suppress, your attorney will have the burden of “articulating the legal and factual bases for the motion with sufficient particularity to place the prosecutor on notice of the issues.” State v. Shindler, 70 Ohio St.3d 54 (Ohio 1994). In 2014, the Ohio Supreme Court clarified the requirements for a motion to suppress in Ohio DUI/OVI cases. In State v. Codeluppi, the Court held, “[A] highly detailed pleading of the facts and law is not required to satisfy the Shindler notice requirements and to trigger the right to a hearing on the motion to suppress.” After the prosecution shows the court that the there was “substantial compliance with testing regulations,” the burden returns to you to “overcome the presumption of admissibility and demonstrate prejudice from the asserted non-compliance with procedures and regulations.”

Because of how crucial a motion to suppress can be in potentially gutting the prosecution’s case and having the charges against you dismissed, or at least in helping your defense attorney build a successful trial defense strategy, it is vital that you speak with an experienced Ohio DUI defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest, so that your attorney may begin looking at every aspect of your arrest and your case to put together defenses and support for a motion to suppress the chemical tests likely being used as the key evidence against you by the prosecution in your case. By speaking with an experienced and qualified DUI defense attorney in Ohio, you can help protect yourself from the negative consequences of a DUI/OVI arrest in Ohio, such as the loss of your job, loss of your driver’s license or vehicle, trouble finding new employment, fines, and other negative outcomes if you are convicted of having driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs.