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Pretrial Motions to Help or Dismiss Your Case

Published: Nov 08, 2021 in Criminal Defense

Pretrial motions and other court filings can significantly impact a case. These procedural steps are often how defense attorneys build your defense and attack the case against you. Successful motions may make a conviction practically impossible or chip away at the evidence enough that the prosecution wants to negotiate to resolve your case.

What is a Pretrial Motion?

Both sides can make pretrial motions following your arraignment. They can be written or verbal. These are official requests for a judge’s action on an issue about your case.

Pretrial motions are based on the facts, evidence, the constitution, laws, or court rules. Charges may be dropped or reduced, witnesses or evidence excluded, or the trial’s expected location may move. When a motion is brought before the court, both sides will argue their point of view for a judge to decide.

How Do I Make a Motion?

If the facts of the case establish an issue exists, an attorney must consider how to best bring it up and help the client. There must be facts, and the less contested and the better established they are, the better.

If questions regarding how the law should be applied and your attorney can make a good-faith argument for a result that benefits your case, that is the time to file a motion.

You need both a factual and legal basis for a motion. You can’t make them for the sake of making them slow down the process. If we’re not acting in good faith, that won’t help you or your case and could open you up to potential sanctions from the judge.

Common Pretrial Motions

Many potential motions could be filed, but they should be limited to those which will do you the most good. They include:

  • Discovery: As part of the trial process, the prosecution must allow the defense to discover the evidence in their files. They’re under an obligation to reveal evidence that may show you didn’t commit the crime. A motion for discovery asks an order for the prosecutor to turn over this evidence. If they fail to do this, cover up their omission, you’re convicted, and this is later discovered, the conviction may be overturned.
  • Change Venue: The venue is where the trial will take place. A motion to change venue is a request it be elsewhere. It’s usually filed because heavy, negative pretrial publicity may make it difficult or impossible to find enough jury members with open minds to decide the case. This may happen if you’re charged with a violent crime that received heavy media attention or became popular on social media.
  • Dismiss: The defense may ask the judge to dismiss all or some of the charges. The motion could be due to insufficient evidence for the prosecution to carry their burden of proof, your right to a speedy trial has been violated, the enforcement of the criminal statute’ is unconstitutional, or law enforcement may have violated your rights. Often, these motions are used in combination with others. If the other motion is granted, it may weaken the prosecution’s case so much it should be dismissed. If the prosecution is prevented from using enough evidence to convict you, the judge should dismiss your case.
  • Suppress: A motion to suppress evidence asks that a piece of evidence improperly obtained by law enforcement or the prosecution be suppressed – or not allowed at trial. Many potential mistakes or intentional misconduct should disqualify evidence from a trial. You may not have gotten your Miranda rights read to you before being questioned, or an officer should’ve obtained a search warrant before looking searching your vehicle or home. If law enforcement physically beat you or prevented you from getting medical attention until you confessed, that confession should be suppressed.
  • Disclose Informant’s Identity: You have a right to confront your accusers. If you don’t know who they are, it’s very difficult or impossible to prepare to cross-examine them at trial. If this pretrial motion is granted and you obtain the identity, you can learn more about the person, their biases, and find ways to raise doubt concerning their credibility. You may discover past instances when they lied to police or under oath and the benefits they may get by lying about you, such as a lighter sentence in another case or charges being dropped as part of a plea agreement.

Which pretrial motions are right for your case depends on the law, the evidence in your case, and the actions of law enforcement and the prosecution.

Contact A Defense Lawyer Today

Pretrial motions may play a key role in your defense. If you want to learn more about them or how we’ve used them at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett to help others, call 713-222-6767 or use our online contact form.