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Why Early Motions Are Often Critical In A Criminal Defense

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The image of criminal cases from television, movies, and novels often centers on a buildup to a big piece of testimony or closing statements. In reality, the early stages of a case are usually where a defendant's best chances are. Particularly, a criminal defense lawyer may move for the court to do something that ends or significantly changes the case. Early motions may make a difference on these four fronts.

Dismissing or Reducing Charges

You have the right to ask the judge to dismiss the case if you believe the defense did something wrong. Likewise, you can question whether the charges are legally reasonable.

For example, the criminal defense attorney for a person claiming self-defense might show the court a surveillance video that shows the alleged victims moving into to attack the defendant. The lawyer might then ask the court to dismiss the charges because no jury would credibly believe the defendant was wrong to fight back against an attack.

There are also scenarios where the defense might request reduced charges. If a case appears to be more disorderly conduct than a criminal assault, the defense might request a reduced charge. For example, the defendant might have been running and stumbled into someone without the intent of harming the victim.

Suppressing Evidence

Before a case goes to trial, there will be hearings to decide what evidence is admissible. Depending on the strength of the prosecution's case, suppressing evidence could undermine or even kill it. A criminal defense lawyer might move to suppress evidence the police illegally obtained. Similarly, they might file a motion if they believe the cops or prosecutors have mishandled the evidence.


You also have the right to see what the prosecution means to present for evidence and witnesses. A criminal defense attorney will always request discovery, the process of disclosing these bits of information. If the prosecution later tries to introduce something that didn't appear in discovery, your lawyer can then ask the judge to bar it.

Change of Venue or Venire

The defendant can move for the court to either relocate the trial or use a different jury pool. These are changes of venue and venire respectively. If you believe publicity would make a fair trial in a particular county impossible, you can ask for a change of venue. Likewise, if you believe the jury pool is biased or tainted, you can request a change of venire.

For more information, contact a criminal defense lawyer near you.