Federal Motion Hearings

At a Federal Motion Hearing the District Court hears and decides pre-trial motions. Sometimes the Federal Motion Hearing and the Pretrial Conference are combined into one setting.

If the Defense has filed a motion challenging the legality of a search and seizure, such motion may be heard at this hearing. Motions that challenge the legality of a search or seizure are called Motions to Suppress. The goal of such a motion is to exclude illegally obtained evidence.

At a Federal Motion Hearing the Judge may decide motions based on written submissions by the parties. To decide a Motion to Suppress, the Court will often hear testimony. Most often, federal agents involved in the challenged search or seizure will testify. The Defense will cross examine these witnesses in an effort to demonstrate that the motion should be granted. The Defense may also call additional witnesses depending on the facts of the case.


Anything seized by the Government during its investigation may be subject to a Motion to Suppress. The goal is always to exclude the challenged evidence as having been illegally obtained.

The Defense may file a Motion to Suppress anything it wants to suppress. However, the Defense must have a good faith argument that the item was illegally seized before filing such a motion.


Motion to Suppress seized evidence may be filed in any case where evidence was seized.

For the example, in a drug case, the Defense may seek to suppress any drugs seized if the drugs were seized without a warrant or the warrant was defective. This law in this area is quite complicated.

In order to determine whether a warrant is valid, the Defense must examine the affidavit which was submitted in order to obtain the warrant. If the affidavit that was used to obtain the warrant is defective, then the warrant may be defective. If the affidavit fails to state probable cause to believe evidence will be found at the location in question, the affidavit may be defective. Never assume a search is valid simply because law enforcement has a warrant.


Sometimes the Government will allege that the defendant gave a written or oral confession. The law regarding the taking of and the admissibility of confessions is complex.

In any case where there is an alleged confession, the Defense may wish to challenge the admissibility of the alleged confession. There are many different potential challenges. A confession must be voluntarily, intelligently and knowingly made. A coerced confession may be challenged with a Motion to Suppress the confession. For example, if a confession is made as a result of violence or threats of violence it may be challenged.

If a defendant is in custody, law enforcement is supposed to give him his Miranda warnings before attempting to talk to him. Failure to provide a Defendant with his Miranda warnings prior to custodial interrogation may provide a basis for a Motion to Suppress a confession.


A Federal Judge can issue an order allowing the Federal Government to put a wire tap on a phone. The application for wiretap has to provide the judge with sufficient reliable information to believe that the wiretap will capture conversations regarding criminal activity. If the application for the wiretap is defective, the order for the wiretap may not be valid. If the order for the wiretap is not valid, the recorded conversations may be subject to suppression. Like other areas of federal law, this area of law is also quite complicated.


In some Federal cases a witness will make an out of court identification of the Defendant. The witness may be asked to look at a photo spread or attend a lineup in an effort to identify the alleged perpetrator.

If the procedure utilized to obtain the out of court identification is overly suggestive, the out of court identification may be subject to a Motion to Suppress.

For example, in a bank robbery case the teller may be asked to look at a photo spread in an effort to identify the bank robber. A photo spread is usually a folder containing six photos. One of the photos is the suspect and the other five photos are supposed to be individuals who match the description of the suspect.

Sometimes the photo spread will be purposely put together by law enforcement to make the defendant’s photo stick out. Sometimes the agent showing the photo spread will say something to the witness indicating that the photo of the defendant is the photo that the witness is expected to pick. If the identification procedure is so suggestive as to make the resulting identification unreliable , the identification may be subject to suppression.