Seven Common Pre-trial Motions
Posted in Lawsuit on November 27, 2017
Prior to a trial starting, parties may file for several different motions. Motions constitute a formal method for parties to bring issues to the court’s attention, so this process is crucial. These motions may come in verbal form, with representatives for one party presenting information directly to the judge, or attorneys can submit it in writing. Here are some of the motions attorneys more often file prior to a trial.
- Dismissal. This motion, also referred to as “throwing out the case,” allows a party to request the dismissal of a case because of several reasons. Lawyers do not file for this motion unless they believe the evidence supporting a case is too weak to support the charges. Reasons for this motion could include wrong jurisdiction, a dearth of evidence, or other issues. Even if it comes to light that the factors are true and valid, an attorney can still file this motion if he or she believes the legal basis for the case isn’t valid. In other words, a party filing this motion does not contest the facts brought forward by the opposition; the moving party merely claims the issues lacks validity or legality in the court.
- Venue Change. This motion gives a party, most often the defense, the option to ask for a trial move to a less hostile district where the pool of jurors is likely to be less prejudiced against the defendant. This often happens in very public cases where the media attention makes it impossible to find a jury who has an open mind regarding the case.
- Evidence Suppression. If a lawyer believes the client’s 4th or 5th amendment rights were violated during evidence gathering, he or she can file to suppress any evidence pertinent to those violations. The searching parties, the lawyer contends, gained the evidence in violation of the client’s constitutional rights or beyond the scope of a legal search warrant.
- Summary Judgment. This motion, one of the most frequent motions an attorney will file, occurs before a trial starts and requests the judge rule on a case without the trial. This can only happen in a case where neither party contests the facts of the case, freeing the judge to peruse the information and make a legal decision. This differs from the motion to dismiss in that this motion admits there is a legal basis on which the court needs to rule. A party files this motion after discovery processes end.
- Release of Evidence. If one party suspects the other party may be holding evidence in reserve that would prove important in the first party’s case, he or she may file this motion to request a court order for the release of said evidence by the other party.
- Witness Exclusion. If a witness brought forward by one party has a conflict of interest, the other party can file a witness exclusion motion to request that the judge prevent the witness from testifying. A party may also file this motion if he or she believes the witness is unreliable, incompetent, or hostile.
- Motion In Limine. If a party brings forth evidence that the courts find would be inadmissible later in a trial, the opposing party can request it the judge block it from entry into evidence. The idea would be to prevent exposing the jury to prejudicial evidence. This motion stops a jury from ever hearing the evidence, a much more effective tactic than the judge ordering the jury to ignore or disregard evidence he or she finds inadmissible. As an example, if a defendant has an entirely unrelated criminal charge prior to the current trial, a prosecutor could insert a mention of this charge in the trial to seed the thought into the jury. A judge sustaining an objection by the opposing party and ordering the jury to ignore said criminal charge doesn’t prevent the jury from having that knowledge when they deliberate.
Because of motions like these and alternative dispute resolution, it’s important to note that most cases settle before ever getting to trial. If a case is not either dismissed or ended because of a summary judgement motion, then the process of discovery will begin until the time of a trial. If you have any questions concerning these pre-trial motions, please contact our office today for expert advice and counsel.