A suppression motion is one of the most powerful tools in a criminal defense lawyer's arsenal. It is the means by which to challenge illegal government action to the direct benefit of the accused. Mr. Bruno routinely files and wins suppression motions in his cases, oftentimes watching his client walk directly out of the courtroom, a free person, at the conclusion of a hearing. Very simply, there is nothing more satisfying than a suppression motion win. It vindicates the rights of the individual while powerfully slapping down illegal government action.
The Fourth Amendment, made applicable to the states by way of the Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees "the right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." (Mapp v. Ohio, (1961) 367 U.S. 643). California provides a parallel protection in its constitution under article 1, section 13. These protections provide that searches and seizures "conducted outside the judicial process, without prior approval by judge or magistrate, are per se unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment subject only to a few specifically established and well delineated exceptions." (Minnesota v. Dickerson (1993) 508 U.S. 366, citing Thompson v. Louisiana, (1984) 469 U.S. 17, 19-20).
It is a fundamental principle of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence that when a person is detained or arrested without an arrest warrant, or a person or place is searched without the benefit of a search warrant, the prosecution has the burden of showing the legality of that seizure of evidence (People v. Miranda (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 917, 926). Thus, once the defendant, as the moving party, has asserted that the searches and seizures were conducted without a warrant, the burden shifts to the prosecution to show that the searches and seizures at issue were justified by a recognized exception to the warrant requirement (People v. Williams (1999) 20 Cal.4th 119, 130; Badillo v. Superior Court (1956) 46 Cal.2d 269, 272). "A defendant making a section 1538.5 suppression motion satisfies the defendant's initial pleading burden by alleging a warrantless search together with facts and authorities showing the search was made without a warrant, and that without a warrant the search was illegal." (People v. Smith (2002) 95 Cal.App.4th 283, 299.) "Therefore when the basis of a motion to suppress is a warrantless search or seizure, the requisite specificity is generally satisfied, in the first instance, if defendants simply assert the absence of a warrant and makes a prima facie showing to support that assertion." (People v. Williams, supra, 20 Cal.4th 119, 130; italics omitted.) The Williams court clarified a defendant's initial burden by explaining:
We can discern no reason for requiring defendant to guess what justification the prosecution will offer at the risk of forfeiting the right to challenge that justification. Under such a rule, defendants would routinely safeguard their rights by enumerating, and then refuting, every possible justification for a warrantless search or seizure. Motions to suppress would be filled with pages of unnecessary argument about justifications that the prosecution is readily willing to concede are inapplicable. Because law enforcement personnel, not the defendant, made the decision to proceed without a warrant, they, not the defendant, are in the best position to know what justification, if any, they had for doing so.
d. at p. 129.)
If the prosecution offers a justification for the warrantless searches and seizures during the evidentiary hearing, the defendant must then attempt to refute the justification, or show why it is inadequate. (People v. Williams, supra, 20 Cal.4th 119, 130.)
What this means is simple: If the police did not have an arrest warrant or a search warrant, they always have to justify the search and seizure. If you do not contest the search and seizure, then they don't have to justify anything. The simple procedure, spelled out above, allows the diligent criminal defense lawyer to file a simple brief and put at issue the most extraordinary of constitutional rights. If the brief is never filed, the right is waived.
Your rights are important to us at BRUNO│NALU. The attorneys at our firm represent Californians who have been accused, charged or arrested for criminal offenses, primarily in the areas of Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego.
If you have been charged with a crime and would like to know more about whether or not a suppression motion is appropriate in your case, contact our firm. We offer a free face-to-face consultation and can work out a payment plan in most situations.