How to Exclude Evidence in a Criminal Case by Columbus Ga Lawyer Mark Jones
“I’d like to thank the Alimighty God, without whom no case gets tossed.” – Al Pacino, Carlito’s Way
Clients I represent as a lawyer in Columbus, Georgia who are charged with crimes often ask, “how are we going to defend the case?” “What are we gonna do? These are serious charges.” In trying to assuage the concerns of my clients, I often talk about the two primary vehicles whereby I attack the prosecutor’s case.
Motion Practice is the Primary Procedural Device of the Criminal Defense Lawyer
The primary procedural mechanism for defending a criminal case is through motion practice. Namely, the exclusion of evidence under the case law developed interpreting the United State’s Constitution’s guarantees in the 4th Amendment (no unreasonable search and seizures), 5th amendment (no self-incrimination), and 6th Amendments (speedy trial, compulsory process, nature of charges, assistance of counsel, and confrontation of witnesses against the defendant).
These guarantees apply to the states via the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
That’s all fine and dandy, but unless you’ve been to law school or are just a history buff, none of that makes any sense. Practically speaking, evidence is excluded through two types of motions:
These two types of motions are distinct, but they do have some overlap and they are sometimes confused as the same concept.
Motions in Limine Exclude or Admit Testimonial Evidence That is Prejudical or Illegal
A motion in limine is a motion that also exists in civil practice. It means “motion at the start,” and is another example of attorneys using latin to make themselves feel smarter.
A motion in limine is a vehicle whereby either side to the case can exclude evidence. Usually, the motion seeks to exclude testimonial evidence. For instance, if you wanted to make sure that a witness did not testify about a matter that you felt was inadmissible, such as the Defendant’s choice to exercise his right to remain silent, you would file a motion in limine asking the Court to enter an order excluding that evidence.
A motion in limine can also be used to obtain a Court order that certain evidence is admissible.
So, if one side wanted to make sure they could admit a certain statement by a witness, that party would move the Court in limine for an order that that piece of evidence was admissible.
Motions to Suppress Exclude Physical Evidence Obtained in Violation of the Law
On the other hand, a motion to suppress is a vehicle whereby the Defendant moves the Court to exclude certain evidence that the defendant feels the police obtained illegally. Usually, these motions are seeking to exclude physical evidence obtained in violation of the 4th Amendment’s bar against unreasonable searches and seizures.
So, a party might attack evidence obtained without a search warrant. Or a defendant might attack the foundation of the search warrant itself by arguing that there was insufficient basis for a magistrate judge to find probable cause in issuing the search warrant.
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