During judicial proceedings, both sides may make requests of the judge, known as “motions”. Motions may be made verbally or in written form, which will request anything from a simple change in the date of a trial to a motion to dismiss the entire case. In any case, motions may be made before, during, or after a trial by either side’s legal counsel.
The average motion entails several stages, which include giving notice to the other side about the intention of filing a motion, the hearing of the motion, and the judge’s ruling on the motion. During the filing of a motion, specific reasoning and legal precedent must be cited by the filing party for the review of the adversarial party. During the hearing of a motion, either side may make oral arguments to persuade a judge to rule in their favor. In lieu of filing motions if both sides agree, both sides may enter into a stipulation, which probably has to be approved by a judge before taking affect. Also, defendants may not exercise complete control over the motions that their attorney may make during the course of a trial, especially regarding those motions filed in the middle of a trial that are usually resolved in front of the judge immediately.
Before a trial, a slew of motions may be filed by the defense, which may greatly alter the charges being faced by a defendant, or in some cases, have them dismissed outright. Some of the commonly filed motions before a trial, include:
During trial, both sides can make motions to the judge. For example, the defense may file a motion in limine, which attempts to keep inadmissible evidence out of the court and from the knowledge of jurors before it is even introduced. Another example, while much rarer, includes a motion to allow jury to view crime scene, which forces the judge to accompany the jury at the crime scene. Typically, these motions must be strongly supported by the defense to be approved. In the event the prosecution shouts out inadmissible evidence or testimony, the judge will order a motion to strike testimony, which essentially orders jurors to forget what they just heard. Another common defense motion made during trial occurs following the prosecution’s presentation of evidence. At this point, defendants may motion for dismissal because the prosecution failed to support a strong enough case against a defendant to proceed.
For starters, if a jury returns a not guilty verdict, prosecutors cannot retry the case at a new location, under an appeal, or at the request of the judge. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the defense is at liberty to file a number of post-trial motions. One of the more sweeping motions is the motion to a judge requesting them to overturn a jury’s verdict. This motion is rarely granted. Another option for defendants is to request another trial, which may or may not be granted by the presiding judge. Additionally, defendants can make a motion to appeal to a higher court.