What is the purpose of a pre-trial?

If you face criminal charges, you may anticipate the closure of your case and not understand why so many pre-trials must take place first. Pre-trials can elongate the criminal proceedings and, to the everyday citizen, may seem like unnecessary formalities. 

Pre-trial motions actually serve an important role in the overall justice system. According to FindLaw, pre-trial motions set the boundaries for trial, including what evidence and testimony parties can use, what arguments they can and cannot make, and whether the case should be dismissed altogether. 

Types of pre-trial motions 

If used effectively, pre-trial motions can drastically change the course of a trial. For this reason, attorneys should use the motions wisely and with their utmost discretion. Some of the more commonly filed pre-trial motions include the following: 

  • Motion To Dismiss: If a case lacks evidence, jurisdiction or some other crucial element, or if the parties decide to settle before trial, the judgement may dismiss the case. 
  • Summary Judgment: When neither party disputes the facts of the case, the judge may issue a summary judgment without the need for a full trial. 
  • Exclusion of Witness Testimony: When conflicts of interest arise between witnesses and parties of the trial, the courts may deem the witness incompetent or unreliable. 
  • Exclusion of Physical Evidence: If either party or law enforcement obtains evidence illegally, it cannot be used in trial. 
  • Motion for the Release of Evidence: Sometimes the prosecution withholds evidence that is materially important to the defense, in which case, the courts may order the prosecution to release it. 
  • Motion To Change Venue: In some cases, the judge may change the venue to ensure utmost fairness for both parties. 

Though it may seem like each pre-trial motion puts you further away from a resolution, it may actually help shorten the process and increase your odds of obtaining a favorable outcome. 

Common arguments made during pre-trials 

As with the type of pre-trial motions an attorney may file, the arguments parties make consider variable. For example, your lawyer may argue that the courts exclude your confession if police obtained it without first reading your Miranda rights. The prosecution may move to exclude the testimony of your neighbor with Alzheimer’s, as he or she is not mentally capable of testifying. If the police arrested you without probable cause, your attorney may ask that the judge dismiss the case altogether.