Your attorney should fight for you at every possible opportunity. Pretrial motions are one way that your attorney may strengthen your defense, tilt the justice system in your favor, or even have your case dismissed before trial.
A persistent, savvy attorney will use pretrial motions to their advantage. Though some pretrial motions may be the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass launched just before trial, you want to see that your attorney is pulling out all of the stops in your defense. Many pretrial motions have a substantial chance of success and may deliver tangible benefits for your defense.
What Is a Pretrial Motion?
Per the Office of the United States Attorneys, a pretrial motion is “an application to the court made by the prosecutor or defense attorney, requesting that the court make a decision on a certain issue before the trial begins.”
By filing or verbally submitting a motion, a prosecutor or attorney may seek action related to the following:
- Witness testimony
- The venue where the trial will take place
- The judge
- Other aspects of legal proceedings
When a prosecutor makes a pretrial motion, they are requesting that the judge take some form of action, whether it is moving the venue of the trial, suppressing evidence from use at trial, or another action. A judge can either grant or deny the motion.
What Types of Pretrial Motions May Your Attorney Pursue?
Your attorney should file any pretrial motion that could result in a positive outcome for you or at least increases the likelihood of a positive legal outcome. Some pretrial motions that your attorney may file in a federal case include:
- A motion to dismiss the charges against you: When your attorney files the motion to dismiss, they formally and directly request that the judge dismiss your case. The judge may grant this request if they determine that there is insufficient evidence to proceed with criminal charges.
- A motion for Summary Judgment (or Summary Disposition): Your attorney may file this motion hoping that the judge will rule favorably on your case before a trial begins.
- A motion to discover: Your attorney may file this motion during the Discovery phase. They will request to obtain a copy of evidence, witness testimony, or another item of value from the prosecution.
- A motion to exclude testimony: Your attorney may file a motion to have the judge suppress specific testimony from use at trial. They may file this motion because testimony shows bias, is unreliable, or otherwise unsuited for a jury to hear.
- A motion to exclude witnesses: Your attorney may seek to exclude a witness from being able to testify. This may be necessary if a witness has questionable motives or has proven to be unreliable.
- A motion to suppress evidence: If evidence is not favorable to your case, and your attorney has grounds to file a motion, they may request that the judge disallow the evidence from use at trial.
These are just a few examples of pretrial motions that may arise during your case. If you hire a competent attorney, they will know when to file motions, when not to file motions, and which motions to seek.
Can Prosecutors Pursue Pretrial Motions?
Yes, a prosecutor has the same right to file pretrial motions as the defense attorney does. Because a prosecutor has different motives than a defense attorney, they may file different sorts of motions.
A prosecutor may seek to suppress evidence that favors your defense or to exclude witnesses whose testimony could prove harmful to the prosecutor's case. Your attorney must be prepared to rebut any motions by the prosecution, which will generally pose a threat to your defense.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is prepared for anything--call him today at 888-535-3686.