Pretrial Motion in the United States
A formal request for a trial judge to rule on a particular question. Motions can be filed at virtually any time, and may involve a wide range of matters. Most commonly in criminal proceedings, motions focus on evidence issues and are filed before a trial commences. Such pretrial motions usually attempt to have evidence suppressed. Searches, custodial interrogations, and such identification processes as lineups are most likely to be targeted in a pretrial motion as somehow defective. These motions are also called suppression motions.
Analysis and Relevance
Once a motion is filed, a hearing is held to determine whether the motion is to be granted or not. If evidence is challenged, the burden generally rests with the defendant to establish a legal violation, although the state retains the burden with respect to Miranda issues. The judge’s ruling on the motion carries over to the trial. If evidence is found to have been unlawfully obtained, the evidence is not allowed at trial; it is suppressed or excluded. On the other hand, if the judge rules the evidence was reasonably obtained, it may be admitted at trial and used against the defendant. Most pretrial motions, especially those seeking to suppress evidence, are unsuccessful. This is true because there is seldom any evidence other than the word of the police against the word of the accused. The police tend to prevail in these situations. In addition, if there is a serious problem with evidence and it is obvious the evidence will be suppressed on motion, the prosecutor has the option of not bringing a charge in the case because it is so irreparably flawed.
Notes and References
- Definition of Pretrial Motion from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California