DUI Accusatory Document and Motion to Quash

To be held liable for a crime, the government has to inform you of the crime with which you are charged. The document that lists your DUI charges may be called one name in your state and another in a different state, but our criminal defense attorneys refer to it as an “accusatory document.”

The accusatory document can be as simple as the traffic citation itself, or it may be another particular form. The law of criminal procedure requires that this document be accurate so that the person being accused of the crime may raise an adequate DUI defense to the charges. (If you don’t know specifically with what crime or crimes you are being charged with, how can you defend yourself?)

A demurrer (or motion to quash) is an attack by the defendant against this accusatory document. A special demurrer (or special motion to quash) is an attack on the FORM of the document – that the crime with which you are charged cannot be specified on this kind of document or that the document is lacking some essential “part.”

A general demurrer (general “motion to quash”) is a challenge to the SUBSTANCE of what is written in the document. In other words, this type of motion challenges the accusatory document about whether it contains the correct information relating to stating all the elements of the offense rather than just some of the elements. If it is defective, you can ask the judge to throw out the drunk driving charges against you.

The timing of when to ask for a judicial ruling on motions to quash is very important, so that the prosecutor cannot just redo the paperwork correctly and start over. Your DUI-DWI specialist will be familiar with your state’s laws regarding when to file such a motion, how to assert the proper motion to quash (demurrer), and the appropriate time to request a ruling upon it (usually, after “jeopardy” has attached.)

During the time your case is pending, including during any trial, many questions arise that the court is asked to answer. Legal defenses or procedural challenges may be asserted by your attorney, which may cause the State to drop some or all of the charges before or during the trial. The quality and experience level of your attorney makes a tremendous difference in asserting and arguing these challenges.

The prosecutor can also assert motions in certain circumstances. When an attorney asks the court (usually in a written pleading) to do something or to decide something, this is called a “motion.” The court either grants or denies the motion, based on both the law established by your state’s legislature and the law that has been interpreted by appellate-level courts.

On many issues that are “fact specific,” decisions are often rendered based upon the personal integrity and the legal knowledge of your trial judge. In a very real sense, your judge’s “opinion” about many issues may shape his or her rulings. Judges are human, too.

Because this is your defense for the criminal charges against you, and you will be receiving a large number of forms (copies of the motions and the judge’s decision on each motion) from your lawyer, it is best if you understand what each of these might mean. The purpose of this chapter is not to make you into a lawyer. It is intended to allow you to have a more intelligent conversation with your lawyer at any critical point during the legal proceedings so that you can assert the best possible defense to your charges.