If you are attending a court proceeding, you will frequently hear the Prosecutor, Defense Attorney or the Judge use the word “motion.” So what is a motion? While there are a variety of types of motions, that will be discussed below, when someone makes a motion, they are simply asking the Judge to do something. Here are some examples.
1. Motion to Suppress Evidence
When filing a motion to suppress evidence, you are asking the Judge to suppress or exclude the evidence from use against you at trial. In most Motions to Suppress, the Defense Attorney is arguing certain evidence that was seized violated a Constitutional Right, generally the Fourth or Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution. In addition, in Massachusetts a Defendant should also cite the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, Article XII and Article XIV as they may offer more protection to a defendant than the United States Constitution. You can move to suppress physical evidence seized, statements made by defendant, or anything the Prosecutor intends to introduce at trial. Every Motion to Suppress is fact specific. Success depends on the skill of your attorney and the facts of your case.
2. Discovery Motions
Discovery is the phase of a criminal case that refers to the evidence a Prosecutor intends to introduce at a trial against you. The Massachusetts Rules of Criminal Procedure provide for certain mandatory discovery requests. In addition to mandatory disclosure requirements, the defendant can file discovery motions for additional evidence that is in the Care, Custody and Control of the Prosecutor. The range of Discovery motions are limitless.
3. Motions in Limine
When filing a Motion in Limine, you are asking the Judge to make certain evidentiary rulings before the trial begins. The timing of these motions depends on the complexity of the issue sought in the motion as well as the practice of the particular court where your case is being heard. Frequently, in the District Court, Motions in Limine will be heard on the day of the trial, outside the presence of the jury. Where the issue is more complex, the Court may choose to schedule a hearing in the days or weeks before the trial.
4. Motion for Attorney Conducted Voir Dire
Recently, the Massachusetts Superior Court enacted Superior Court Rule 6, which allows the Prosecutor and the Defense Attorney to move for Attorney Conducted Voir Dire. A Voir Dire is the phrase used to select a jury. Generally, void dire takes two forms. The first, an individual Voir Dire of each juror conducted by the Attorneys. The second, a panel void dire of a group of jurors, conducted by the attorneys as a group or “panel.”