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What is a Pretrial Motion?

Pretrial motions make a big difference in case outcomes.

A successful pretrial motion greatly improves the likelihood of a successful outcome at trial or during pretrial settlement negotiations. If the case goes to trial, a pretrial motion basically means that the deck is stacked in favor of the defendant, plaintiff, or whichever party filed the motion. Because of the better odds, the other side is usually motivated to make a favorable deal and avoid the increased risk of a trial.

Students who do well on their homework usually do well on tests. The same is true for a Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer. Success at trial or a successfully negotiated favorable plea bargain depends on preparation. This preparation includes not only analyzing the case and deciding if a pretrial motion is appropriate but also analyzing the general law and collecting evidence that supports the client’s claims or defenses.

Criminal Law

Most Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers at least consider filing a motion for discovery, a motion to dismiss the action, and a motion to exclude evidence.

Discovery is an information exchange process. It is usually the only way defense lawyers can plan an effective defense, especially in “closed file” jurisdictions that give defense lawyers very limited access to the prosecutor’s evidence.

Some limited discovery is always available. For example, defense lawyers have the right to investigate the facts and interview witnesses. This limited discovery is often sufficient, but a little more never hurts.

A motion to dismiss could be based on a lack of evidence (more on that below) or, most likely, a speedy trial violation.

These motions are often successful in Texas. Many courts are overworked, and many cases slip through the cracks. Additionally, Texas law does not define “speedy trial.” Moreover, Texas law doesn’t require a showing of prejudice. In other words, defendants don’t have to prove the delay was harmful. Defendants must simply prove delay.

Most judges give the state about a year to file charges after an arrest. A longer delay, which is not uncommon, could be a speedy trial violation.

A motion to exclude evidence is usually based on a Fourth or Fifth Amendment violation. The Fourth Amendment requires officers to have valid search warrants before they seize contraband, at least in most cases. The Fifth Amendment gives defendants the absolute right to remain silent during questioning, once again, at least in most cases.

Family Law

Lack of jurisdiction and motions are the most common pretrial motions in Tarrant County family law matters.

In most divorce, child custody, and other family law cases, the parties must have been residents of the county for at least 60 days. If a petitioner files an action in the wrong county and the judge grants a motion to dismiss, the petition can start over again in the correct jurisdiction. Frequently, however, the petition would rather agree to a favorable deal and avoid all that trouble and expense.

Motions in limine are common in modification matters. Legally, anything that occurred before the current order was signed is irrelevant in a modification action. If Michelle divorced Steven because he was convicted of a sex offense, she cannot use that conviction against him if he asks for a parenting time modification .

Attorneys can object to irrelevant questions. But the judge might or might not sustain the objection. A motion in limine resolves the matter in advance.

Reach Out to a Tarrant County Criminal Defense Attorney

Pretrial motions lay the ground rules for trials. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Fort Worth, contact the Law Office of Kyle Whittaker.