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Suppression of Evidence in Michigan

Question: What is suppression of evidence? How might this be accomplished in an OWI case in Michigan?

Answer: Suppression of evidence is basically a legal fiction that we create to protect people’s right. Many people, especially around election time, like to call them “technicalities;” but we actually have rights in America. If our rights are violated and they’re violated by the government, then we have to find a way to penalize the government for that violation. One of the ways that we penalize the government for violating someone’s rights is to take away things that are ill gotten. So in the case of evidence that the officers obtained illegally, we would say that they should not be allowed to come before a jury or a court because those would be reinforcing the negative behavior that the police officers used to obtain it. Instead, what we would do is we would review all of the evidence, we would see if the officers conducted themselves appropriately. If not, we would motion the court—it’s a legal term for simply asking the court to take a look at the evidence—and make any notes of where the officers have violated the law. If they have, the judge will rule that that evidence—or potentially all evidence, depending on the severity of the violation on the police conduct—we would use that to try and suppress the evidence. Now, depending on what kind of order the judge issues, the evidence could be suppressed for certain purposes but possibly not others, but it is simply an exclusion of evidence from the review of either the jury or potentially for the entire case based on police misconduct or essentially a violation of our constitutional rights.