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Pretrial Motions

One of the most crucial aspects of any criminal case in Pennsylvania is the filing of motions before a trial that asks the court to take certain actions. Depending on the motion, an alleged offender can dramatically affect how the prosecution will be able to present its case at trial.

In order to give yourself the best chance at successfully filing these types of motions, you will want to have experienced legal representation as soon as possible. A Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney has a limited amount of time to file these motions, and you will want to make sure that your legal counsel can provide a thorough and complete review of every aspect of your case in order to be successful.

Filing Pretrial Motions in Pennsylvania

Michael J. Skinner is a former Assistant District Attorney for the Chester County District Attorney’s Office. This experience on both sides of the aisle with criminal cases gives him a thorough understanding of what weaknesses there might be in a prosecutor’s case, and it helps him file successful motions that challenge the legality of certain evidence.

Skinner Law Firm represents clients all over Chester County as well communities in Montgomery County, Delaware County, and Lancaster County. You can call (610) 436-1410 to have our firm review your case during a free, confidential consultation.


Pennsylvania Pretrial Motions Information Center


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When Pretrial Motions Are Filed

Under Rule 578 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, courts generally prefer that all pretrial requests for relief be included in one omnibus motion. This is a type of motion that can include a variety of pretrial requests, and Rule 579 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure states that the omnibus motion should be filed and served within 30 days after an alleged offender’s arraignment.

It is important to note that some motions may still be filed separately or later than 30 days after an arraignment if a defense attorney was not aware of the grounds for the motion. Obviously, an alleged offender and his or her lawyer would prefer to file any motions and get rulings on them as soon as possible.


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Types of Pretrial Motions

The types of pretrial relief that the Pennsylvania Codes states are appropriate for omnibus motions include, but are not limited to the following types of requests:

Motion for Suppression of Evidence

This is one of the major types of motions that are filed pretrial. This type of motion seeks to have certain evidence excluded from trial. The grounds for this motion usually concern evidence which was illegally obtained, often through illegal search and seizure that violated an alleged offender’s Fourth Amendment rights.

If this type of motion is successful, it can have an enormous impact on the prosecution’s case. Charges may be significantly reduced or the prosecutor may have to dismiss charges altogether.

Motion to Quash or Dismiss Information

A motion to quash seeks to have a previous lower court’s decision ruled invalid. This type of motion is filed if a court made a mistake in its ruling or a certain court document was illegally issued or in some other improper manner.

A motion to dismiss is a formal request to have a court dismiss the case. This motion may be filed for a variety of reasons, including withdrawal of the complaint, lack of jurisdiction, failure to state a claim or a settlement between the parties.

Motion for Continuance

This is a fairly common motion that adjourns or postpones a pending action to a later court date. These delays are usually granted when the prosecutor or the defense lawyer needs more time to prepare a response before trial following certain actions or delays in gathering evidence.

Motion for Severance and Joinder or Consolidation

A defense attorney will typically file a motion for severance of offenses if the alleged offender has been charged with two or more unrelated crimes. This type of motion can prevent juries from hearing charges that might prejudice their judgment in relation to other charges.

Conversely, a motion for joinder or consolidation of offenses can be filed so the alleged offender can resolve all criminal charges in a single trial. It may also be possible to file a motion for joinder or consolidation of defendants if the alleged offender shares responsibility with another criminal suspect.

Motion for Psychiatric Examination

The defense may file this motion in certain criminal cases in which a complainant or accused is believed to have mental health problems.

Motion for Change of Venue or Venire

A defense lawyer may file this motion if an alleged offender cannot get a fair and impartial trial in the county where the case is currently pending.

Motion to Disqualify a Judge

Judges are expected to recuse themselves in cases in which they know that they cannot preside over court proceedings with impartiality because of a conflict of interest. If a judge does not remove himself or herself from hearing a case, the defense attorney can file this motion if the alleged offender will be unable to get a fair and impartial trial under that judge.

Motion for Appointment of Investigator

The defense lawyer may file this motion if an alleged offender has been denied access to evidence that is material to his or her guilt or punishment, resulting in substantial prejudice.

Motion for Pretrial Conference

This motion seeks to have the judge schedule a formal meeting of both parties before trial at which the defense may seek to have frivolous claims dismissed, have the judge rule on pretrial motions, and possibly discuss a settlement.

Motion for Transfer from Criminal Proceedings to Juvenile Proceedings

This motion may be filed if an alleged offender was under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the alleged offense.


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What Happens After Pretrial Motions Are Filed

The number of successful motions filed by a Pennsylvania defense attorney before trial directly impacts the likelihood that charges are dismissed. More successful motions usually help an alleged offender avoid having to go to trial.

If only a few motions succeed or not enough are approved to get charges dismissed, it may still be possible to get a prosecutor to reduce charges. If the prosecutor decides to proceed with his or her case against the alleged offender, then the case will proceed towards trial.


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Learn More About Pretrial Motions

If you have been charged with any type of criminal offense in Pennsylvania, you will want to make sure that you are working with a skilled criminal defense attorney. Michael J. Skinner defends clients who have been accused of driving under the influence, drug offenses, violent crimes, and domestic violence.

Skinner Law Firm helps residents of Lancaster County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Chester County. Our firm can provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case during a free legal consultation when you call (610) 436-1410 today.

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