DUI Motions to Suppress Your Statements
Strategies for using issues surrounding your statements to police officers.
It doesn’t matter how good a job your DUI lawyer does at picking apart the police officers’ testimony and the chemical evidence if the state introduces statements that you made into evidence that make you look guilty.
Fortunately for those accused of DUI, the law provides that any statement that the police say you made will not be admitted into evidence against you unless they can show that it was made voluntarily. This means that it was not the result of force, threats or coercion.
It is extremely important for you to tell your DUI lawyer everything that you remember saying right from the beginning. The reality is that most DUI arrests are not audio or video recorded. Therefore, in the typical case that goes to trial six months to literally years after the arrest, police officers must rely on their police reports to remember what you said. However, certain things at trial may trigger memories of things that you said that are not in the report. And, of course, there’s always the chance that the police officer might make something up or think you said something when it was really somebody else.
The first step any good DUI lawyer goes through in evaluating whether to challenge the voluntariness of your statements is the evaluate the statements themselves. For example, if you said you were drunk, or admitted to driving and causing an accident, your lawyer will want to try to get those statements thrown out of court. On the other hand, if what you said to the officer is helpful to your defense, then there is no reason to challenge its admissibility.
The objection to the voluntariness of any statement attributed to you is something that the trial judge MUST rule on if made before the statement is brought up in court. Although this motion is technically supposed to be done outside the hearing of a jury, there is one potential advantage to be gained from this issue in front of a jury.
The advantage of questioning voluntariness:
I have been known to lay a foundation that proves voluntariness for the cops while defending my DUI clients. Why would any good DUI lawyer want to do such a thing? It goes like this:
Q: Officer, you arrested my client because you thought you had probable cause to believe that he was under the influence of alcohol, right?
Q: And we’ve already established that the first thing to go when somebody becomes impaired by alcohol is that person’s judgment?
Q: Now eventually, you asked my client a series of questions following his arrest, right?
Q: And in your opinion did my client’s condition change in any noticeable way from the time you arrested him to the time you asked him questions, 20 minutes later? By this I mean did he seem any more or less sober to you when you asked him the questions than he did at the time you pulled him over and arrested him?
A: Nope. He was about the same, I guess.
Q: Now you are an experienced DUI officer, and you remember your training about suspect interrogation and questioning, right?
Q: You were taught that in order to ask a suspect questions after arrest you must read them Miranda.
Q: And you were taught that in order for the suspect’s answers to be admissible into evidence, that suspect must understand his rights, and be able to knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waive them, right?
Q: And you also understand that the answers can’t be the result of force, threats or coercion, right?
Q: And since you did read him Miranda, and you accepted his answers, I assume you felt that he had the capacity to understand his important legal rights, correct?
A: Yes, I believe he understood.
Q: And you felt that he had the ability to exercise good judgment and make a knowing, voluntary and intelligent decision about answering your questions.
After the officer answered “absolutely,” I now have the ability to argue to the jury that my client’s judgment was not impaired… at least the officer didn’t think so because he asked him the questions and used them in court.
This method is especially effective if the answers you gave are helpful to your case.
If the answers are harmful, then your DUI lawyer will want to do everything possible to keep a jury from hearing about them.
As always, check with your local DUI lawyer to determine whether bringing a motion to suppress statements that you made involuntarily is right for your case.