Pretrial motions raise arguments that certain evidence should be kept out of the trial, that certain witnesses must or can't testify, or that the case should be dismissed altogether. The prosecutor and defense attorney make pretrial motions after a preliminary hearing and before a criminal case goes to trial.
Most DUI cases don't reach the preliminary hearing stage. In most cases, the arraignment represents the first and last time a suspect will be in court. Most drunk driving suspects choose to plead guilty and avoid a jury trial. This is especially true if the evidence of their intoxication is strong.
This article discusses pretrial motions generally. It also addresses what arguments parties usually raise during pretrial motions in DUI or driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases.
What Are Pretrial Motions?
Pretrial motions are requests made by either attorney before trial to limit the evidence a jury or judge will hear. Pretrial motions are tools used by the government and the defense to set the boundaries for trial. Pretrial motions usually address:
- What physical evidence and testimony are allowed
- What legal arguments can and can't be made
- Whether there's any reason the defendant shouldn't have to stand trial
What Arguments Do Parties Raise During Pretrial Motions?
While specific possibilities are endless, below are some examples of pretrial motions defense counsel might raise in a DUI case:
- The defense asks the judge to exclude from the case evidence of marijuana "joints," claiming an officer obtained them through an illegal search of the defendant's car.
- The defense asks the judge to exclude a confession, claiming the defendant made it to a police officer who failed to advise the defendant of their Miranda rights.
- The defense asks the judge to exclude Breathalyzer test results, claiming the arresting officer used a flawed breath testing procedure or improperly administered standardized field sobriety tests.
Can My Lawyer Make a Motion To Strike My Prior DUI Conviction?
Whether your defense lawyer can make a motion to strike your prior DUI conviction depends on the circumstances. A motion to strike a prior conviction asks the court not to consider any prior convictions from the last 10 years when deciding your sentence. Successfully excluding prior convictions can result in less jail time.
Your attorney might be able to successfully file a motion to strike your prior DUI conviction under the following circumstances:
- Your prior DUI charge is unresolved, meaning there's been no conviction yet.
- The court record isn't accurate, and you don't have a prior DUI conviction.
- There's a constitutional reason why your prior charge shouldn't count against you, such as a lack of probable cause for an arrest.
The Officer Who Arrested Me Illegally Harassed Me at the Scene. I've Heard This Has Happened Before. Can I File a Pretrial Motion?
Suppose you believe an arresting officer illegally harassed you and have reason to believe the officer has engaged in similar behavior in the past. In that case, you might be able to file a pretrial motion. A pretrial motion could allow you to access the arresting officer's personnel file. This could help you determine if the officer has prior complaints about their conduct.
Law enforcement officers must follow very strict guidelines when obtaining evidence. The arresting officer's personnel file can show that because the officer has a history of misconduct, it's likely they improperly treated you. In that case, the evidence against you could be kept out of court. Complaints that you might look for in an officer's personnel file include those about:
- Racial bias
- Excessive force
- False arrest
- Planting evidence
- Criminal conduct
For the court to grant you access to a personnel file, something must have happened that led you and your attorney to believe the officer's past conduct was questionable.
Have Questions About DUI Pretrial Motions? Ask a Criminal Law Attorney
An attorney can help you with your case in many ways, including pretrial motions. Learn more about your driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) case and get legal advice from a qualified DUI attorney near you.
Whether you're facing a first-offense misdemeanor or a felony DUI, a criminal defense attorney can help with your criminal charges and your DUI defense. A DUI lawyer can be a valuable asset after a DUI arrest or revoked driver's license. A DUI defense attorney understands DUI laws, driving offenses, and DUI penalties.