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What are Motions in Criminal Cases?

What are Motions in Criminal Cases?

If you’re charged with any criminal offense, your number one question should be how can I beat this case? Depending on the specific crime and its underlying factual allegations, you may be able to beat your case by filing a motion. But before diving into the specifics, it’s important to know what a motion is and when they should be filed.

A motion is a legal document usually filed before trial that asks, or in legal speak “moves,” the court to do something. You ask the court to do something relating to your personal rights, and usually in response to your personal rights being violated. The most common motion that asserts your personal rights is a Motion for Discovery. This motion is the first motion you file in every criminal case and it moves the court to direct the prosecution to turn over any and all evidence it has in its possession –grand jury testimony, police reports, body camera videos, witness statements, forensic testing, etc. A lawyer will file this motion because you have the personal right to know exactly what evidence the prosecution has in its possession.

The second type of motion, responding to when your rights are violated by the police, depends on the specific facts of your case. A lawyer would most often file this type of motion when the police seize evidence in violation of your personal constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Some examples of Constitutional motion are: Motion to suppress evidence, Motion to Suppress Statements, and Motion to Dismiss an Indictment.

The following is a more specific example of a motion to suppress evidence. If a police officer, for instance, enters your home without a warrant or consent and immediately sees drugs in your living room – a lawyer should file a Motion to Suppress the drugs under the Fourth Amendment. A Motion to Suppress asks the court to stop the prosecution from presenting the physical drugs and any testimony about the officers seeing them in your home at trial because the police violated your personal rights, which are guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. In other words, the Motion moves the court to suppress the evidence illegally seized.

If, however, you were simply visiting your friend’s house for a few hours and the police do the exact same thing, you do not have a motion. That’s because the police did not barge into your home and your personal rights were not violated. Under this scenario, you might have a trial issue, not a motion- whether the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the drugs were in the house. Though you cannot move the court to stop the prosecution from presenting the drug evidence at trial, you might still be able to argue at trial that the drugs were not yours and you did not possess them. Importantly, this argument is not made by filing a motion, but by arguing to the jury that the evidence the state presents at trial does not prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Knowing exactly when a motion should be filed and what arguments to make to convince the court to grant it, requires an experienced criminal defense attorney. The experienced lawyers at Pissetzky & Berliner have successfully filed, argued, and won countless motions in both state and federal courts across the country. If you or a loved one are facing serious criminal charges, contact us today.

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