Pretrial motions can make or break your case. While wanting your day in Court is certainly something to which you are entitled, why run the risk of putting your life in the hands of a jury unnecessarily? Filing these kinds of motions may obviate the need for a jury trial and make your life a lot less stressful.
A motion to suppress is a pretrial motion that attempts to throw out (or have suppressed) evidence that is bad (inculpatory) for you as a criminal defendant. There are many reasons for filing a motion to suppress and winning these motions very often results in your case being dismissed. Sometimes, winning them only takes away some of the evidence the State has to use against you. Nevertheless a thorough investigation by an experienced attorney can reveal reasons to file a motion to suppress that an inexperienced attorney may miss. The practice of law is an art and filing motions to suppress can be strategically advantageous or disadvantageous. For example, merely filing a motion to suppress may provide the prosecutor a basis to consider dismissing or reducing your charges or giving you a better plea deal. On the other hand, filing a motion to suppress can hurt you if you eligible for a pretrial diversion program (PTD) because the filing of such pretrials motions may disqualify you from participating in PTD. It is important to consider this potential hazard.
Motions to suppress are mixed questions of fact and law and require a formal hearing in court. So some people think of them as “mini-trials” because there are witnesses called to the stand, evidence introduced and arguments made at the end. After the hearing, the Judge will make findings of fact (meaning, they will decide what they believe actually happened). Next, the Judge will decide how the law should apply to those facts. In applying the law, the Judge may decide that the merits of the motion are good and grant the motion to suppress.
A motion to dismiss is a pretrial motion that attempts to have one or all of your charges completely dismissed. In a “c4” motion to dismiss, your attorney is asserting that there are no materially disputed facts and that, even if the facts are proven, no crime has occurred. A motion to dismiss is purely a question of law for the interpretation of the Judge. If you are successful in convincing him or her on the assertions of the motion to dismiss, you may walk out of court that day with your charges totally dismissed. One downside to filing this type of motion is that you (the defendant) must sign and swear to the facts contained in the motion to dismiss. If you lose the motion and go to trial, the prosecutor can use this information against you as an admission.
Motions in limine are evidentiary pretrial motions that attempt to have the court order or regulate how or what evidence is to be introduced at trial. These can be powerful because the State may want all evidence against you to be introduced at trial, whether unfairly prejudicial or not. Your attorney can file these motions in advance of trial or on the day – depending on your trial strategy.