What is a Pretrial Motion?

At its most basic, a motion is a formal legal request made to the judge in a case. A pretrial motion is one made before trial. In criminal procedure, pretrial motions and preliminary hearings take care of certain legal issues before trial takes place, such as the admission of evidence and who will be allowed to testify as a witness.

Why Do Pretrial Motions in Federal Criminal Cases Matter?

The pretrial motion and preliminary hearing phase of a case is often crucial. It can be a turning point. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, your criminal defense lawyer can bring a motion to exclude evidence at trial or a motion to dismiss the charges altogether.

Examples of Pretrial Motions in Federal Cases

  • Motion to Dismiss. A motion to dismiss is a request to the judge that the federal charges be dismissed altogether for lack of evidence or other issues.
  • Motion to Suppress. A motion to suppress asks the judge to keep certain evidence or witness statements out of trial.
  • Motion for Change of Venue. A motion for change of venue is a request that the case be moved to a different location because of concerns that the jury will be swayed by publicity (often done in high-profile cases).

Any one of these motions, whether granted or denied, can have a significant impact on the case at hand.

Expert Tip: In many child pornography cases, where the evidence against a defendant is strong based on a forensic examination of the suspect computer, the best chance of beating the charges often means filing a motion to “suppress” (or exclude) the evidence obtained from the computer. United States v. Hodson, 543 F.3d. 286 (6 th Cir. 2008) (possession of child pornography conviction reversed when evidence of child pornography found on the suspect computer was obtained via an invalid search warrant).

State v. B.S.: Not Guilty Verdict in First Degree Murder Case.

In this case, our client was charged with First Degree Murder in connection with a “drive by” shooting that occurred in Charlotte, NC. The State’s evidence included GPS ankle monitoring data linking our client was at the scene of the crime and evidence that our client confessed to an inmate while in jail. Nonetheless, we convinced a jury to unanimously find our client Not Guilty. He was released from jail the same day.

State v. S.G.: First Degree Murder Charge Dismissed.

Our client was charged with First Degree for the shooting death related to an alleged breaking and entering. The State’s evidence included a co-defendant alleging that our client was the shooter. After conducting a thorough investigation with the use of a private investigator, we persuaded the State to dismiss entirely the case against our client.

State v. B.D.: First Degree Murder Charged Dismissed.

After conducting an investigation and communicating with prosecutor about the facts and circumstances indicating that our client acted in self-defense, the case was dismissed and deemed a justifiable homicide.

State v. I.R.: Reduction from First Degree Murder to Involuntary Manslaughter and Concealment of Death.

Our client was charged with the First Degree Murder of a young lady by drug overdose. After investigating the decedent’s background and hiring a preeminent expert toxicologist to fight the State’s theory of death, we were able to negotiate this case down from Life in prison to 5 years in prison, with credit for time served.

State v. J.G.:

Our client was charged with First Degree Murder related to a “drug deal gone bad.” After engaging the services of a private investigator and noting issues with the State’s case, we were able to negotiate a plea for our client that avoided a Life sentence and required him to serve only 12 years.