Police are human. Police officers many times rush to judgment when stopping someone who has consumed alcohol and automatically mistakes alcohol consumption for intoxication. It is not illegal to consume alcohol before driving. Drinking and then driving only becomes illegal when someone has consumed so much alcohol that it creates impairment of their normal mental and physical faculties. Police officers use police tools to detect impairment, and these tools are designed to make people look impaired even when they are sober. These tools cause officers to make mistakes in the execution of these standardized tools or they make a mistake in what the so-called clues really mean. These mistakes can be intentional or accidental. Either way, if the mistake was made during your DWI arrest, it could mean some evidence can be suppressed (legally thrown out) by a motion to the court.
Houston DWI attorney Doug Murphy has established a name for himself as one of the top DWI attorneys in Houston based upon his results in suppressing illegal stops, sobriety tests, breath tests, blood tests and statements in misdemeanor DWI, felony DWI, intoxication assault and intoxication manslaughter cases in Harris County and throughout Texas. Houston-based DWI attorney Doug Murphy, one of only two Texas attorneys to be Board Certified in DWI defense by the National College for DUI Defense and also Board Certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, knows how to use Motions to Suppress evidence to your advantage when the facts and circumstances are right for it. He will review your case and develop a strategic legal defense. Doug does not utilize a one fits all approach to every DWI case, he develops a unique strategy for every case based upon the facts. Contact him today to discuss your DWI case.
What is a Motion to Suppress?
In Texas -- as well as in the United States -- there exists an “exclusionary rule.” This rule states that when a court finds evidence to be obtained illegally, the evidence must be excluded, i.e., it cannot be used by the State to argue its case against the accused person.
A motion to suppress is a legal tool experienced defense lawyers use to invoke the exclusionary rule. In other words, a motion to suppress is a means to challenge the legality of how police or other law enforcement agents attain evidence. When a motion to suppress is granted, the illegally obtained evidence cannot be used. This result often means the State has limited or no evidence to support a DWI charge against you. Many times, the case will be dismissed, and in other instances, the State's case will be much harder to prove before a jury than if the excluded evidence had been admitted. If the latter occurs, Doug Murphy uses his experience and insight to further weaken the State's case against you. It is Doug Murphy's priority to hold the prosecutor, judge, and jury accountable to the principle that you are innocent unless proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And when motions to suppress evidence are successful, proving beyond a reasonable doubt becomes increasingly difficult, especially with an experienced and top DWI defense lawyer in Houston, Texas.
What does it mean to have evidence illegally obtained in Houston DWI cases?
Evidence can be obtained by the police in multiple ways. A motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence can be filed when the evidence is illegally obtained by the police. Often, this happens when the police illegally arrest you, illegally search and/or seize your person and/or property, or fail to follow proper protocol when performing field sobriety tests, breath tests, or blood tests. Basically, this means your fourth amendment rights have been violated.
An officer must have probable cause in order to arrest you for an alleged crime. If probable cause does not exist, then the arrest was unlawful. But it does not end there. In most DWI cases, a person is usually first pulled over for a traffic stop. In order to pull you over, the police must have had reasonable suspicion that you committed a traffic violation or other crime. The police cannot pull you over simply because you are driving late at night. If reasonable suspicion did not exist, then a subsequent arrest may have been unwarranted and evidence flowing from this event can be suppressed.
Illegal Search & Seizure
Oftentimes when a person is pulled over in Houston or elsewhere throughout Texas and drunk driving or drugged driving is suspected, the police officer will search the person and/or vehicle. If alcohol or drugs are found, the police may seize the evidence. This process known as search and seizure becomes unlawful if the police did not obtain your consent or, alternatively, did not have probable cause and did not receive the proper warrant for such a search.
Failure to Follow Protocol
The police must follow proper protocol when arresting you. This includes reading your Miranda Rights and conducting drug examination, field sobriety tests, breath tests, and/or blood tests properly and in accordance with rules and regulations. If at any point protocol is not followed, it could mean any evidence flowing from that improper act could be suppressed.
How is a Motion to Suppress used in a Harris County TX DWI Case?
A motion to suppress should be used strategically by your attorney. Some attorneys, however, fail to recognize situations where it can benefit clients. Some attorneys also fail to timely file a motion to suppress. In order for this pleading tool to be effective and successful, you need to retain the best attorney for you in the Houston metropolitan area, like Doug Murphy, who can identify when evidence has been illegally obtained and will then file a motion to suppress that evidence timely and strategically.
Incorporation of a Motion to Suppress into a Texas DWI Defense Strategy
Like any good defense strategy, how, when, and what matters. How a motion to suppress is used, when it is filed, and what it claims will determine its success or failure.
A motion to suppress is most often used to exclude incriminating evidence against you at trial, but it can also be used to discover evidence in the State's possession. Timing of the motion to suppress also matters. An attorney can file it as a pretrial motion or can object to the admission of the evidence at trial. If filed as a pretrial motion, a hearing will be set. This is important because it provides a defense attorney an opportunity to cross-examine police officers and other adverse witnesses prior to trial. Doug Murphy uses strategy to cross-examine officers and witnesses at these pretrial hearings to limit to what they can and cannot testify at the trial. But there is one caveat: if the motion to suppress is filed before trial and a pretrial hearing is set, the prosecution will have the opportunity to appeal the judge's decision. That's why it is ever-important what you claim in the motion and when you file it. Sometimes, it may be more advantageous to carry the motion with trial. An experienced attorney will draft a motion supported by fact, which in turn is supported by evidence (e.g., video camera footage) and file it timely.
Examples of Motions to Suppress in Houston DWI Cases
An experienced attorney will review the totality of the circumstances surrounding the officer's decision to stop, arrest, and test you for alcohol and/or drugs. An experienced DWI defense lawyer will challenge police conduct at each step, knowing that the earlier the illegal act takes place, the better it is for you. Here are some examples of motions to suppress to demonstrate how they work in practice.
- Bad stop results in dismissal of case. Maybe you were weaving within your own lane and driving slowly, so the police pull you over for a traffic stop under the suspicion you are driving while intoxicated. Your attorney files a motion to suppress based on the fact the police pulled you over without reasonable suspicion you committed a traffic violation or other crimes because weaving in your own lane and driving slowly are not violations of any law or traffic rule. All facts attained from the improper traffic stop can be suppressed.
- Bad search results in suppression of key evidence. Police pull a driver over after the driver commits a traffic violation. The police suspect alcohol or drugs and ask the driver to step out of the vehicle. Without consent, the police pat the driver down and find marijuana in his pocket. Without giving consent to the search and without the police obtaining a proper warrant first, the search was illegal and the evidence flowing from it can be suppressed. In this case, there may be other evidence, like a failed field sobriety test that can still be admitted. But the suppression of key evidence weakens the State's case, and the attorney can take advantage of it at trial.
- Bad search warrant results in suppression of key evidence. The police pull you over for a traffic violation and then suspect drinking and driving. You refuse a breath test, so the officer applies for a search warrant to draw your blood. The results show you had a blood alcohol content level of 0.15. In his or her application for the warrant, the officer failed to provide the time of the driving and other relevant details. The court then finds the search warrant was insufficient. As a result, the blood test is excluded as evidence.
Contact the Best DWI Attorney for You in Harris County TX
A successful motion to suppress can shape the outcome of your DWI case. It can lead to a dismissal if the evidence suppressed was essential to the prosecution's case against you or it can weaken the State's case against you whereupon your attorney will hold the judge and jury accountable to the principle that you are innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Based in Houston, Texas, Doug Murphy represents clients in surrounding counties, too. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today to discuss your case with an experienced DWI defense legal team.