ILLEGAL TRAFFIC STOPS AND SUPPRESSION MOTIONS

ILLEGAL TRAFFIC STOPS AND SUPPRESSION MOTIONS

In all criminal prosecutions, the State has the burden to prove the legality of a traffic stop. An officer must have probable cause to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation. If the officer has reasonable suspicion that the driver has committed a crime, such as driving under the influence of intoxicants or driving while suspended, the officer may also stop a vehicle and conduct an investigation. In virtually all cases, it is important for the defense attorney file a motion to suppress the stop. If the court determines the stop was illegal, then all evidence obtained by the cop as a result of the illegal stop gets thrown out as well. That means the case gets dismissed and the client walks away without a conviction.

A recent case result, while unusual, highlights the importance of filing motions to suppress traffic stop. Client was charged with felony driving while suspended. We filed a motion to suppress but knew that it was unlikely the court would suppress the stop. The District Attorney's office, however, failed to subpoena to the officer for the suppression hearing. Without the officer at the hearing, the State was unable to prove the lawfulness of the stop. The felony driving while suspended charge was dismissed and the client avoided a risky trial and possible prison time. The lesson is that even in cases where suppression of evidence might be be difficult, the suppression motion must always be filed.