DUI Motion Hearing
As the parties near the motion hearing, the attorneys will diligently research the law and create legal briefs supporting their positions. The defense intends to persuade the court their position is correct. If successful, the court will rule in favor of the defense and grant a remedy. Remedies can include dismissal of the case or suppression of certain pieces of evidence. Suppression will prevent the Trier of fact [a jury or judge] from considering that specific piece of evidence during the trial.
A motion hearing begins with the prosecution presenting their case through witness testimony. The prosecution attempts to establish all the contested evidence is a result of a legal police investigation. They also attempt to establish any purposed defense legal theory is improper in light of the specific case facts. When the prosecutor is finished questioning a witness the defense is provided an opportunity to question that same witness. A defendant has a constitutional right to confront anyone providing testimony against the defendant.
When the prosecution has exhausted all of their witnesses the prosecution will rest. Now the defense has an opportunity to offer witness testimony or may choose to argue based upon the insufficient prosecutor evidence. When both sides rest the court will require argument from both parties.
The prosecutor and defense will artfully weave the facts of the incident with time-honored case law and creative, yet persuasive thought. When argument is over the court will make a ruling to each motion presented. One hopes the court will grant their motions. Each side has a vested interest in weakening the other side and strengthening their position.
There are three beneficial objectives of a motion hearing. First, and most important, is to eliminate and suppress as much evidence as possible. Eliminating evidence significantly deteriorates the prosecution’s case for trial usually creating an incentive to negotiate the case resulting in an advantageous resolution for the defendant.
Secondly, the proceedings are recorded and every witness providing testimony answers questions under oath. They vow to tell the truth under penalty of perjury. This allows defense to thoroughly prepare for future trial testimony if there is a trial. It is paramount for the defense to be familiar with every statement the officer will make in front of a jury. The officer testimony is “locked in” because it is recorded. If the officer attempts to embellish or change their story for a jury trial the defense may use a transcript of the motion hearing and impeach the new or embellished trial testimony. This can ruin witness credibility in the eyes of a jury or judge hearing the trial.
Finally, the motion hearing is an opportunity to educate the prosecutor. Prosecutors rely upon the police report when charging a defendant with a crime or crimes. Rarely do prosecutors have the time or resources to interview the arresting officer before filing charges. Police investigative reports frequently are riddled with negative facts supporting only one conclusion; the defendant’s guilt. Sometimes the officer fails to interview a crucial witness either because of time constraints or that witness refused to come forward at the time of the incident. Sometimes the version of the facts, in written form paints a dreadful picture of the defendant. However, during live testimony the facts create a new and more favorable perception of the defendant. The defense may not succeed in suppressing evidence, but now the prosecutor realizes their facts are not as damaging as originally contemplated.
At the conclusion of the motion hearing the defendant will typically know how strong and how weak their case will be for a trial. The court will confirm a future readiness and trial date. Do not panic. There is still ample time to continue negotiations with the prosecutor before a trial.