Supreme Court Of Pennsylvania Places Initial Burden At Suppression Hearings Squarely On Government

In a criminal case, one method to keep harmful evidence from reaching the jury or require a dismissal of all charges is to file a motion to suppress. A skilled defense attorney will know how to identify if these issues are present in your case and how to effectively raise the proper Constitutional challenges.

In Commonwealth v. Enimpah, decided December 29, 2014, Pennsylvania’s highest court clarified a matter that was the cause of come confusion in criminal cases: Who bears the burden when a defendant files a motion to suppress evidence? The Court held the privacy protections of both Pennsylvania and United States Constitutions, as well as the Rules of Criminal Procedure, require the Commonwealth to prove its evidence was not obtained in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights without first requiring the defendant to present evidence of his own.

Prior to this recent decision, some district attorneys attempted to place an initial burden on the defendant to establish a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area searched or items seized. In those cases where defense counsel decided it was best to keep a client from testifying, the suppression motion could be denied without the Commonwealth presenting any evidence to support the lawfulness of the search or seizure.

It is now clear the Commonwealth may not “sit on its hands” and force a defendant to testify regarding a connection to the contraband or the area searched. In the presentation of evidence, if the Commonwealth demonstrates the defendant lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy, the burden shifts and the defendant must then establish said expectation.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court just made that job easier by clarifying the burden of proof. The police must do their job without violating a citizen’s’ rights and the district attorney must be able to show that the police did behave constitutionally. Experienced lawyers at The Mazza Law Group, P.C. can assess your case to determine if your rights are being violated.

Supreme Court Of Pennsylvania Places Initial Burden At Suppression Hearings Squarely On Government was last modified: August 31st, 2015 by Steven Trialonas