If I lose my motion to suppress and plead guilty, can I appeal?

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It’s not uncommon for a defendant to file a motion to suppress evidence, to lose that motion, and to later plead guilty or no contest. For some, the only hope at avoiding a conviction is asking the judge to suppress crucial evidence—if the prosecution is allowed to use that evidence, the defendant will have next to no chance at trial. For a defendant in this situation, who has lost a suppression motion, a plea bargain may be the next logical step.

Example: Bodie is walking down the street when Officer Carver appears out of nowhere to stop and frisk him. Carver finds cocaine in Bodie’s pocket. There’s no doubt that Bodie committed the crime the prosecution charges him with: possession of cocaine. But there is a question as to whether Officer Carver violated his Fourth Amendment rights. If Bodie brings and wins a motion to suppress, the prosecution will have to dismiss the charge for lack of evidence. But if he loses that motion, it makes sense for him to take a deal because he’s got no defense.

In a few states, defendants in Bodie’s situation can appeal denial of the motion to suppress even after they have pleaded guilty. (But see Can you lose the right to appeal a ruling by taking a plea deal?) In others, they need to reach a plea agreement that explicitly allows them to have an appellate court review the ruling on the motion to suppress—otherwise, they can't appeal it.

See Conditional Pleas for more information on:

  • whether you need to reserve the right to appeal a conviction or a ruling that led to it
  • how to do so, and
  • the effect of doing so.

For information on whether you should bring a motion to suppress or take a plea deal, and the point at which you should agree to a plea deal, talk to an experienced lawyer in your area.

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