After the preliminary hearing and before a criminal case goes to trial, the prosecutor and the defense attorney usually appear before a criminal court judge and make pre-trial motions -- arguments that certain evidence should be kept out of the trial, that certain persons must or cannot testify, or that the case should be dismissed altogether.
Remember that most DUI cases do not reach the preliminary hearing stage. In the majority of such cases, the arraignment usually represents the first and last time the suspect will be in court, as most DUI suspects choose to plead guilty, especially if evidence of intoxication is strong.
What Are Pre-Trial Motions?
As their name implies, pre-trial motions are requests made by either attorney prior to the trial to limit the amount of evidence a jury or judge will hear. Pre-trial motions are tools used by the government and the defense in an effort to set the boundaries for trial, should one take place. Pre-trial motions typically address the following issues:
1. What physical evidence and testimony can be used?
2. What legal arguments can and cannot be made?
3. Is there any reason that the defendant should not be forced to stand trial?
What Arguments Are Made During Pre-Trial Motions?
While specific possibilities are endless, following are some examples of pre-trial motions that might be made in a DUI case:
- The defense asks the judge to keep out of the case ("exclude") marijuana "joints" that the defense argues was obtained through an illegal search of the defendant's car.
- The defense argues that a confession made by the defendant should be excluded, because it was made to a police officer who failed to advise the defendant of his Miranda rights.
- The defense argues that Breathalyzer test results should be excluded, because the testing procedure used by the arresting officer was clearly flawed.
Can My Lawyer Make a Motion to Strike My Prior DUI Conviction?
Maybe. This motion asks the court to make it so that any prior convictions from the last ten years or so are not taken into account when deciding your sentence. As you might expect, the penalty goes up with each additional DUI you get.
The Officer Illegally Harassed Me at the Scene and I Hear She Has Done it Before. Can I File a Pre-Trial Motion?
Again, maybe. A pre-trial motion could allow you to gain access to an arresting officer's personnel file to determine if the officer has received any prior complaints regarding her conduct. Remember that police officers must follow very strict guidelines when obtaining evidence. The arresting officer's personnel file may be used to show that, because the officer has a history of misconduct, it is likely that you were not properly treated. And, if so, then 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, discrimination, harassment, or criminal conduct.
However, in order for a access to a personnel file to be granted, something must have happened that led you to and your attorney to believe that the officer's past conduct should be called into question.
Have Questions About DUI Pre-Trial Motions? Ask an Attorney
There are a number of ways an attorney can help you either win your case or get the best outcome possible, including through the use of pre-trial motions. Learn more about your case and possible legal strategies by consulting with a qualified DUI attorney near you today.