In Massachusetts, a motion to suppress is a way to exclude evidence that the police got illegally. If you win a motion to suppress, the Commonwealth cannot introduce the illegal evidence at trial. Sometimes, that means the case is dismissed.
Generally, motions to suppress seek to exclude unconstitutionally seized drug evidence, illegally gotten statements, or the identification of the perpetrator.
A motion to suppress in Massachusetts can be filed for several reasons, including:
Illegal stop of car
Unlawful search of car
Warrantless search of house
Insufficient Miranda warnings
Illegal search of person
Invalid lineup procedure
Invalid show-up identification
When Can the Police Stop My Car in Massachusetts?
Police can stop any vehicle they have probable cause to believe is involved in a criminal offense, including a traffic offense. Probable cause does not mean solid proof – just some evidence.
If the police see you run a red light, not wearing your seat belt, or even not maintaining your lane, they can stop you to write a ticket. This is true even if the police really stopped you for another reason – as long as you were not obeying traffic laws, the police can stop you.
However, police cannot keep you longer than necessary to complete the ticket. For example, they cannot hold you to have a drug-sniffing dog determine whether there are drugs inside your vehicle.
Similarly, if the police see you running from a crime scene or you match the description of someone who committed a crime, they can stop you and investigate.
If police stopped your car in Massachusetts, your criminal defense attorney should generally file a motion to suppress to challenge it.
When Can the Police Search My Car in Massachusetts?
Police can search any car when they have probable cause to suspect that evidence of a crime can be found inside. Again, probable cause does not mean conclusive proof – just some evidence.
If police see drugs or something else illegal in plain view, they can search your car to investigate. Police can also conduct an inventory search if they tow your car.
You have the right to refuse to consent to police searching your car if they do not have probable cause.
When Can Police Search My House?
Police must generally have a warrant to enter your house unless there is some sort of emergency, normally referred to as exigent circumstances. You do not have to let the police in to your house without a warrant and you have the right to refuse consent to search.
Even if police have a warrant, the search can still be illegal if there was not probable cause for the warrant. This is why it’s important to review the search warrant affidavit for possible problems.
The home is one of the most protected places under the law. If police illegally searched your home in Massachusetts, your attorney should file a motion to suppress.
What Happens if the Police Don’t Give Me Miranda Warnings?
The police not advising you of your rights generally does not mean the case is automatically dismissed. It only means the police cannot use the statements you made.
That also only applies if you are in custody and police are interrogating you. Police do not have to give Miranda warnings if you are free to leave or they are not asking you questions.
You do not have to speak to police, and it is generally better to exercise your right to remain silent if given the choice. Otherwise, the police will use what you say against you, even if you’re completely innocent.
What Is an Illegal Identification?
If a witness identifies you as the perpetrator of an offense, you can attempt to exclude the identification through a motion to suppress.
For example, if you were the only person in a live lineup, this is called a one-man show-up identification, and you could get your identification excluded. Furthermore, a photo lineup must have similar pictures, or it could be illegal.
If the Court excludes the identification, the witness cannot point you out in court.
What if Someone Else’s Rights Were Violated, Not Mine?
If police violate someone else’s rights, you generally cannot get that evidence excluded. This is a concept called standing, and it means you cannot assert someone else’s rights.
The Court can only exclude evidence if the police violate their regulations. This is especially true in the OUI context, if the police don’t follow their regulations on breath tests.
If you believe your case involves illegal evidence, you need an attorney experienced in suppressing evidence. I have filed motions to suppress in Massachusetts and won many of them. I can help you win your case.
Contact me now to set up an appointment. If you need a criminal defense lawyer, call me now and set up a consultation at (617) 295-7500.