pretrial hearing

List of Pretrial Motions


What is a Pretrial Motion?

A pretrial motion is a motion, or request, that is filed after the preliminary hearing of a case. These motions can pertain to civil or criminal cases, but are more often used in criminal cases and are generally filed by the defense. Motions need to be brought before a judge after pretrial hearings but prior to the start of the trial. Since the amount of a bail bond is usually set during the preliminary hearing, pretrial motions are generally filed after a defendant has been granted or denied bail.

The Different Types of Pretrial Motions

There are a number of different types of pretrial motions that can be filed following pretrial hearings. Here is a list of some of the most common ones.

Summary Judgment

When cases go to trial, the prosecution and the defense are usually presenting two separate arguments. However, in some cases, the two parties may be in agreement about most or all of the facts. A motion for summary judgment is filed when the facts involved in a case are not in dispute, and the two parties only disagree about how these facts relate to the law. It requests that a verdict be given without a trial.

Motion to Dismiss

When filing this type of motion, a defense lawyer is asking that all charges be dropped. They might make this request because they believe there is no evidence suggesting that a crime has been committed. Other reasons a motion to dismiss can be filed include withdrawal of the complaint, a lack of jurisdiction, and a pretrial settlement.

Motion to Suppress

In criminal cases, a defense attorney often files a motion to suppress in order to stop certain evidence from being heard at trial. If the motion is successful, it could lead to the case being dismissed entirely. In certain cases, a motion to suppress may ask that a defendant’s confession be discounted as evidence because it was obtained through coercion or other illegal means. Motions to suppress can also request the exclusion of physical evidence or the exclusion of witness testimony.

When a defense lawyer asks for the exclusion of physical evidence, this is usually because the evidence has been gathered illegally. For example, a defense lawyer might file this type of motion in a search-and-seizure case if they feel the defendant was searched illegally.

A defense attorney can also request the exclusion of witness testimony. They could argue that the witness is unreliable or that there is a conflict of interest present. The method by which the witness identified the defendant could also be considered unfair.

Motion for Change of Venue

A motion for change of venue can be filed in order to request that a trial take place in a different location. In criminal cases, the trial generally occurs in the county in which the crime took place. A defense attorney might request a change if they believe the defendant will not receive a fair trial in the current venue.

Oftentimes, the concern about a fair trial can relate to pretrial publicity. If a defendant has received excessive negative publicity, it may be unlikely that the court can find an impartial jury, so the judge may grant a venue change. The defense attorney will have to present compelling evidence that this is the case, however.

Motion for the Release of Evidence

When people are arrested, their personal property can be taken as evidence whether it was used in a crime or not. By filing this type of motion, an attorney can request that this property be returned. The rules governing a motion for the release of evidence can vary by state. Generally, in order for a property to be returned, it must be something that can be duplicated or something that’s not vital to the trial. For example, if documents have been taken into evidence, original copies might be returned because duplicates can be made.

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