A common court date in an Arizona DUI case is what is known as an “evidentiary hearing.” This is a hearing that is different from an actual trial.
Evidentiary Hearings on DUI Defendants’ Motions to Suppress Evidence
The evidentiary hearing is generally set after one of the parties, typically the DUI defense attorney, files a certain type of motion with the Court. Motions filed vary, and one such Motion type relates to some issue with the case whose remedy would be suppression of certain evidence from use by the State (called “Motions to Suppress Evidence”), and these are the type of Motion that we will focus on in this blog entry.
Motions to Suppress Evidence can be raised by the DUI defense attorney in an Arizona DUI case for various issues, such as: (1) issues with whether the police officer’s stop of the DUI defendant’s vehicle was lawful (known as “stop issues”), (2) issues with whether the police officer had probable cause to make the DUI arrest, (3) issues with the DUI blood draw, or even (4) certain right to counsel violation issues. These are the most common issues in Motions to Suppress Evidence, but are certainly not all of them.
In Arizona, once the appropriate Motion to Suppress Evidence is filed by the DUI defense attorney, the State will typically respond, and an evidentiary hearing will typically be set by the Court.
What Happens at the Evidentiary Hearing?
At the evidentiary hearing, witnesses are generally subpoenaed by the State. However, on occasion the DUI defense attorney may subpoena a witness to address a particular issue that may arise from the defense perspective.
The witnesses involved are generally the police officer or officers involved in the DUI case, as well as anyone else who may have been involved in some of the mentioned issues. On occasion, depending on the issue, the DUI defendant may testify.
The witnesses are given direct questioning at the hearing, generally by the defendant’s attorney, and then the attorney for the State is given the opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Then there is some possible re-direct questioning to clear up any issues that may have arisen on cross.
After the close of the evidence, the judge makes a ruling on whether to either grant the Motion to Suppress Evidence or deny the Motion to Suppress Evidence. This ruling can be immediate, or can be “taken under advisement” and made at a later date, generally within a few days.
What Does the Ruling Mean for the DUI Case?
Generally, if the judge denies the Motion to Suppress Evidence, the case continues where it was, and things proceed in normal course. Generally, trial preparations begin shortly after.
However, should the judge grant the Motion to Suppress Evidence, generally the case then becomes more difficult for the State, as they normally lose a good portion of their evidence (as the Motion will ask for specific evidence to be suppressed as a remedy to the violation or issue that occurred).
If the Motion is granted, and important evidence against the DUI defendant is suppressed (such as the BAC (blood alcohol content) results, the DUI defendant’s admissions, etc.), then the State may either offer some type of plea agreement or dismiss the case entirely (depending on how devastating the loss of evidence is to their case), although there is no guarantee that this will happen. However, if the State does not seek to resolve the case after receiving a ruling in the DUI defendant’s favor, and proceeds to trial without the use of that specific evidence, the State may have a harder time convincing a jury of their case. As a result, the evidentiary hearing on a defendant’s Motion to Suppress Evidence can be the defendant’s best friend.
An experienced Arizona DUI defense attorney will be able to review a client’s individual AZ DUI case, and determine if there are grounds for a Motion to Suppress Evidence to be filed in his or her case.