What is a Suppression Hearing?

We’re going to have what’s called the suppression hearing in the case. And what a suppression hearing means is that we’re asked if we’re going to have a hearing where we put the officer on the stand take testimony we’ll cross-examine him and then we’re going to ask the judge to throw evidence out in the case and in fact dismiss all of the charges in the case as well. And what we’re going to talk about in this particular case is what’s called a pre-textual stop.

What a pre-textual stop means is that law enforcement really has an ulterior motive and they’ve made up their mind that they’re going to pull over a vehicle whether or not they witness a traffic violation so they’re going to follow it long enough just to wait until they see if they can find a traffic violations and these are really minimal or what are called trivial traffic violations. So, pre-textual means that an officer is maybe profiling a car, it could be because they’re state patrol and they’re working on a highway and they’re looking for cars that have out-of-state license plates and maybe it’s on a major drug trafficking route like I-70 or I-80 or some of the other major highways where there’s a lot of drug trafficking that occurs.

The officers will camp out they’re looking for usually two or three people in a car it’s usually young men and then they’re looking for these out-of-state plates and when they see that they’re going to start following that vehicle and again they’re looking for even the most minimal traffic violations really small stuff that they wouldn’t normally pull cars over for something like maybe the license plate light is dim, maybe they’ve got a pair of dice or something else hanging from the rearview mirror and that’s not allowed in that state, maybe they’re going one or two miles an hour over the speed limit and that’s it and all the other cars are too but they’re going to pull over that car because they’re kind of profiling it.

In Utah for example they have a couple of weird traffic laws. One is that if you’re going to make a lane change on the highway you’ve actually got to put on your lane change signal on your vehicle for a full two seconds before you even start to move the vehicle from one lean to the other. I have found in defending cases around the nation that that’s a really odd law most states don’t have that law. So, that’s one of the reasons for example in this particular case that the officer is using to say that he was justified in pulling over my clients vehicle.

Another one is following too close. This is much more common in other states and that’s usually the two-second rule and that says that if you’re driving a car you cannot be within closer than two seconds behind another vehicle unless the traffic is very, very heavy. So, if it’s rush hour time that’s okay or if it’s kind of unavoidable because the other car is all of a sudden slamming on their brakes or something that’s a violation but other than that you have to be a full 2 seconds behind another vehicle if you’re if you’re following it and if not the officer might be justified in pulling your vehicle over.

These are some of the trivial violations that law enforcement might look for when conducting a traffic stop if they have a pre-textual basis to do it. So a good defense lawyer will look for pre-textual reasons and be able to identify when a pre-textual stop is happening and then be able to make sure we get the video to look at that and see if the video corroborates what the officers written report says and can also look at other basis where perhaps this traffic stop really shouldn’t count under the law and if that’s the case then we ask for what’s called as an evidentiary or suppression hearing where we have the officer come testify and we’ll put the video into evidence will cross-examine the officer we can have other people testify and we’ll ask the judge to find that there was not what’s called a reasonable, articulable suspicion to make a traffic stop in the case.

And the way the  law works is if a stop is not good under the Constitution because it’s unconstitutional than any evidence that law enforcement fines after a traffic stop must be thrown out because it’s called fruit of the poisonous tree.