Motion to Suppress Evidence in San Diego Criminal Cases

San Diego Search and Seizure LawyerSan Diego Search & Seizure Lawyer
 A brief summary of Fourth Amendment law tells us that law enforcement officers need either a warrant or exigent circumstances to search a home, but only probable cause or a lawful arrest to search a vehicle.  As such, most home searches involve search warrants or threats to the safety of an occupant.  Car searches are often performed without a warrant, based only on the officer's belief that he/she has probable cause.  When the government fails to get a valid search warrant, fail to demonstrate true exigent circumstances, cannot demonstrate probable cause and cannot demonstrate consent, the appropriate remedy is suppression of the evidence. 

This exclusionary rule is the way that the courts protect the Fourth Amendment rights of all citizens.  If an innocent person is searched and the search turns up nothing, there is still an intrusion on that person's rights.  Under California Law, the way to get evidence suppressed is to file a motion pursuant to Penal Code 1538.5, also known as a Wilder motion.  In 1961, the US Supreme Court laid out its prophylactic rule for evidence exclusion in the case of Mapp v. Ohio and applied the rule to the states.  The Mapp Court recognized that letting law enforcement use unlawfully obtained evidence would lead to more rights violations for the innocent.  This is the only way that the courts can stop the police from violating a suspect's Fourth Amendment rights and ensure that law enforcement officers will not violate the rights of citizens in order to find contraband.

Motions to suppress evidence are often very important in drug possession, weapon, and DUI cases.  A 1538.5 motion can be filed to suppress a traffic stop, search of a vehicle, search of a person, search of a home, and more.  If police do not have a good reason or consent to search, an experienced, intelligent criminal defense attorney should be able to get the evidence thrown out.  Proving that probable cause for a search is the government's burden, and it may be possible to get evidence thrown out in your case.


Adam is pulled over while driving in San Diego's East Village neighborhood for not signalling a lane change.  The area is known for narcotics trafficking, and Adam is driving away from a corner notorious for drug sales.  The officers did not see Adam buy any drugs, but are suspicious based solely on the location and see that Adam is young. 

The officers note that Adam is nervous when they come into contact with him.
  They ask Adam to step out of the vehicle and handcuff him for their "safety".  The officers than pat Adam down "for weapons" and notice a small object in his pants pocket, too small to be a weapon.  Inside the pocket, the officers find a bag of cocaine.  Adam is arrested, and his car is further searched, yielding another larger bag of cocaine and a firearm.  Adam hires a skilled San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney to represent him.

At arraignment, Adam's attorney gets the discovery from the prosecutor, and requests a copy of the arresting vehicle's dash video.  Adam's lawyer files a motion to suppress the evidence, challenging the traffic stop, the pat down, the search of Adam's pocket and the search of the vehicle.  Through effective cross-examination and
solid argument, Adam's lawyer is able to show that the traffic stop was unreasonable because the failure to signal was not illegal under the circumstances (no car in the destination lane), that the pat down was unreasonable (he could have been cited for a vehicle code violation if the stop was deemed valid), that the search of Adam's pocket was more than a pat down for weapons, and that the search incident to Adam's arrest was based on an unlawful stop, pat down and search.  Due to these violations of Adam's rights, the judge would grant the motion to suppress evidence and the charges would be dismissed.

If you or a loved one have been arrested, charged with a crime and were subject to search by a law enforcement agency, you may be able to defend your case with a motion to suppress evidence.  Contact The Loncar Law Firm now for a Free Consultation.


Nicholas M. Loncar, Esq.
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
San Diego DUI Lawyer
T: 619-930-9515
By Nicholas Loncar    


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