When police are investigating a person suspected of driving while intoxicated (DWI), they must follow procedures designed to safeguard people’s constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires police, with some exceptions, to get a search warrant before conducting a search of a person or their property. Evidence that police obtain in violation of the Fourth Amendment is inadmissible in court. A DWI defendant and their attorney can establish that a constitutional violation occurred by filing a motion to suppress. If the court grants the motion, the state cannot use any evidence obtained through the unlawful search. Sometimes, this means prosecutors cannot move forward with the case and must dismiss that charges.
Motions to Suppress in DWI Cases in New Jersey
Municipal courts in New Jersey have jurisdiction over DWI cases. Rule 7 of the New Jersey Rules of Court governs municipal court proceedings.
A DWI defendant can file a motion to suppress evidence obtained in any unlawful search, whether the police had a warrant or not. If the police had a warrant for the search, the defendant must show that it was improper. For example, a warrant could be found to be invalid if the officer withheld important information from the judge who issued the warrant.
Police can stop a vehicle and briefly question a driver if they have reasonable suspicion of a motor vehicle offense. For example, an officer who sees a driver run a red light can pull them over to issue a ticket. If they notice signs of DWI, they can continue to investigate. A motion to suppress the results of a warrantless search could show that the police did not have reasonable suspicion of a motor vehicle offense, or that they failed to follow established law regarding breath testing.
Filing a Motion to Suppress
Rule 7:5-2 governs motions to suppress in municipal courts. The procedure depends on whether the police had a warrant for the search. In a motion involving a warrant, the defendant must submit a brief that states their factual and legal arguments along with the motion. The prosecutor has ten days to submit a brief with facts and arguments in support of the search. If the search at issue was warrantless, the judge has discretion over the briefing schedule, and may decide whether and when to require the parties to submit briefs.
Arguing a Motion to Suppress in Municipal Court
The court must hold a hearing on a motion to suppress before trial. If the police had a warrant, the judge who issued the warrant may not preside over the hearing on the motion to suppress. At the hearing, both sides may present oral argument and evidence in support of their claims. This may include calling witnesses.
Impact of a Successful Motion to Suppress
If a defendant prevails at the suppression hearing, the state cannot use any evidence obtained from that search. The effect on the overall case depends on how much evidence the state has. If the suppression order only covers breath testing results, the state could still use other evidence, such as eyewitness testimony from police officers. An order finding that the initial stop of a vehicle was unlawful, on the other hand, could result in suppression of all of the state’s evidence, leading to dismissal of the charges.
DWI lawyer Evan Levow represents people in New Jersey who are facing alleged DWI charges in municipal courts. Please contact us online or at (877) 593-1717 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we can assist you.