The Importance of DUI Pre-Trial Motions Hearings

In some cases, pre-trial motions may result in your DUI case being dismissed or reduced to a non-DUI-DWI disposition.

Examples of issues at motion hearings include whether or not your stop by the police was legal, whether or not your blood, breath or urine tests, or your refusal to be tested can be part of the evidence that the jury is allowed to hear, and whether or not all of your constitutional rights were observed by the police. These are issues that are presented and argued without a jury being present, with rulings on all issues being rendered by the judge.

The procedure for raising these issues before trial is to schedule a pre-trial hearing with your attorney (and likely you), the prosecutor and the judge. A court reporter always should be present at motion hearings to take down all testimony and court rulings. At the conclusion of the hearings, the judge will be rendering one or more rulings that will set the ground rules for the trial. The court reporter also takes down the testimony of the witnesses for either side, and this sworn testimony can be used to impeach officers who change their testimony at trial.

A major difference between a pre-trial motion hearing and a conference with the judge is the presence of witnesses being sworn and questioned by both sides. Any evidentiary rulings made by the judge will control the admissibility of the evidence at trial. If your case reaches trial, certain portions of the motions hearing may become a pivotal battleground between your attorney and the prosecutor. Any rulings made by the judge that were challenged by your legal counsel may be the basis of a successful appeal later.

The winning of a pre-trial hearing by your side gives your attorney great leverage in getting the charges against you either lessened or even dropped. Because they are so much shorter than a trial, your attorney may place much effort into winning such important points in your favor. Such hearings also “lock in” the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, giving your attorney a better chance to prepare to question them at your trial.

One aspect of winning critical rulings at pre-trial motion hearings is that almost every state provides the prosecution with the absolute right to stop the case before trial and seek appellate review of any adverse rulings by the judge. The reason for the availability of an immediate appeal is that if the trial goes forward without key evidence against you being available to the prosecution, no appeal can be brought if you are acquitted. So, state statutes allow the prosecution to halt the proceedings and seek appellate review of rulings at motion hearings.