Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure provide the procedures to be used when a defendant makes a motion to the court to suppress evidence . A court will suppress any evidence obtained in violation of the defendant’s rights. Accused persons are given constitutional guarantees by both the federal Constitution and the state Constitution. In fact, the Pennsylvania Constitution provides more individual rights to the accused than the United States Constitution. Specifically, the accused claims that they or their property was unlawfully searched or seized by the police. In order for a judge to consider the motion, the motion shall state specifically and with particularity the evidence sought to be suppressed, the grounds for suppression, and the facts and events in support thereof. The issue of suppression is a question of law to be determined by the judge in a particular case. The motion should be heard and testimony should be taken before the trial and outside of the presence of the jury.
The burden during suppression hearings is on the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has the burden of going forward with the evidence and of establishing that the challenged evidence was not obtained in violation of the defendant’s rights. The judge holds a hearing separate from the actual trial to determine if the physical evidence was illegally obtained. A defendant may choose to testify at the suppression hearing but the decision to testify at the suppression hearing does not waive the decision to testify at trial. The judge looks to applicable search and seizure law stemming from Pennsylvania courts and the United States Supreme Court to make the determination. The case law shows the judge how other judges have interpreted the state and federal constitutional mandates. If the judge determines that evidence was obtained illegally, in violation of the accused’s constitutional guarantees, then the suppression motion on behalf of the accused would be granted and the evidence would be suppressed.
Evidence that has been suppressed cannot be used against the accused at trial; it is as if the evidence never existed. Also, defense counsel can claim that all evidence obtained after the suppressed evidence should also be suppressed as it was tainted by the earlier misconduct by the police. In other words, all evidence and conduct occurring after that point should be disregarded as fruit of the poisonous tree. If the judge determines that the evidence was not obtained illegally, the evidence may be used at trial against the accused.
Seelinger Law has helped to suppress items such as drugs which were the result of an illegal vehicle stop, incriminating statements by accused persons which were the result of illegal police questioning, and fingerprints which were obtained after an illegal search of a house.
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