There’s a lot more to a criminal trial than what you may see on TV or in the movies, which may focus first on the arrest of a character and then on the trial. The truth is that criminal defense attorneys are quite busy in the interim, reviewing case law, examining discovery materials, and using pretrial motions to defend the interests of their clients. Through successful pretrial motion practice, it may be possible to gain access to certain witnesses or documents – or even have criminal charges dismissed entirely because of procedural issues. Pretrial proceedings are critical in a Pennsylvania criminal case, and a skilled defense lawyer is essential to fight the charges against you.

 

Pretrial Motion Practice in Pennsylvania Criminal Cases

After your arrest, arraignment, and preliminary hearing, your case is set for trial. The time period leading up to that date is the pretrial phase. Prosecutors and your criminal defense attorney may use this time to file motions, which are applications to the court requesting that a judge makes a decision on an issue before the official trial begins. A motion may address issues of procedure, evidence, or testimony. Pretrial motion rules require a party to submit the request in writing, and the other side has time to respond in a written answer.

 

Types of Pretrial Motions

Criminal defense lawyers may use one or more different types of motions to defend your case:

 

  • Motion to Compel: This is a proceeding wherein your lawyer asks the court to force the prosecution to do something, such as turn over evidence. If the state has documents, pictures, police reports, witness testimony, or other evidence that’s that you don’t have – but which is important to your case – your attorney may also use a motion to compel to obtain it.
  • Motion to Suppress: This type of motion is essentially the opposite of a motion to compel; instead of trying to obtain information for trial, you’re requesting to keep it out of your trial. Probable cause issues are often involved with motions to suppress because any information police get in violation of your civil rights should not be admitted in court.
  • Motion to Dismiss: If there is not enough admissible evidence to support a conviction, your attorney may file a motion to dismiss to discharge and end the case. Essentially, the motion admits the facts but alleges that they do not amount to a crime.

 

Discuss Your Case with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney in West Chester, Pennsylvania

No matter what crime you’ve been charged with under Pennsylvania law, you do have basic civil rights, including the right to due process under the law. Through the use of pretrial motions, an attorney will protect your interests and attack any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you. Unless you have a legal background, you may not be able to properly defend yourself and present motions to support your case. The experienced lawyers at the Skinner Law Firm have the detailed knowledge of state and federal law to fight for your rights. Please contact our West Chester, Pennsylvania, office with questions or to schedule a consultation. 

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Article Author

Michael J. Skinner, the founder of Skinner Law Firm LLC, is a former prosecutor with the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

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