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Motions to Suppress & The Fourth Amendement
The Fourth Amendment mandates that the following rights apply to all:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
A Motion to Suppress Pursuant to Penal Code Section 1538.5
A Motion to Suppress ensures that an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights are protected. In the absence of a warrant or some exigency, an officer needs an objective violation of the law to detain an individual, whether on the street or driving. This is usually found through a violation of the vehicle code or some other law. A Motion to suppress, pursuant Penal Code Section 1538.5, allows a defendant to challenge an officer’s proffer of reasonable suspicion. If granted, everything after the illegal stop is thrown out because the search and seizure are deemed illegal.
In Whren v. United States (1996) 517 U.S. 806 the Supreme Court held that, in the absence of a warrant, an officer must see an objective violation of the law, or have reasonable suspicion that a crime is about to occur or has occurred, before an officer may detain an individual. An officer’s subjective intentions are irrelevant. An objective violation must be articulated. In Heien v. North Carolina (2015) 135 S.Ct. 530, the Supreme Court re-iterated the “objectively reasonable standard” stating that even a mistake of law must be objectively reasonable.
Because an arrest without a warrant is presumptively illegal, the burden at a motion to suppress rests upon the prosecution to prove the warrantless stop was legally justified. Mapp v. Ohio (1961) 367 U.S. 643; People v Williams (1999) 20 Cal.4th 119. In People v. Dowdy (1975) 50 Cal.App. 3d 180 at 183, the court held that "The rule forbidding the acquisition of evidence by illegal means is that not merely evidence so acquired shall not be used before the court but that it shall not be used at all... the rule operates to exclude indirect as well as the direct products of such invasions" reiterating Wong Sun v. United States (1963) 371 U.S. 471. Silverman v. the United States 365 U.S. 505 held that testimonial evidence is also excluded if obtained through an unlawful search.
The standard of proof at a Motion to Suppress Evidence pursuant to Penal Code Section 1538 is by a preponderance of the evidence. People v. James (1977) 19 Cal.3d 99. In People v. Dickerson (1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 645, the Court held that when there is a factual inconsistency in the testimony, yet the testimony on both sides is credible, and there is no warrant, the motion should be granted.
As a matter of procedure, in misdemeanor cases, a motion to suppress is heard before trial. In felony cases, a motion to suppress may be heard at the time of the preliminary hearing or on a date specifically set for the motion to be heard.