Pretrial Motion

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.

See Also

Exclusionary Rule (Criminal Process)

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

  1. Definition of Pretrial Motion from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Pretrial Motion: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Pretrial Motion. This part provides references, in relation to Pretrial Motion, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Pretrial Motion by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Pretrial Motion and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Pretrial Motion or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Pretrial Motion and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Pretrial Motion. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Pretrial Motion should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Pretrial Motion when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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