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What Is A Motion In Limine?


A video of a hearing in which a man who was nominated to serve as a federal district judge failing to answer several questions about basic legal concepts went viral recently. One of the questions the man was asked was whether he knew what a motion in limine was, a question he was not able to answer. Not many people outside the legal profession may be familiar with this term, although it can be very helpful when it comes to a criminal case.

A motion in limine is an important tool that can be used by both the prosecution and defense in a criminal trial to keep out evidence. Generally, motions in limine are filed before the start of trial, although in some situations, they can be filed after the trial has begun but before the introduction of the challenged evidence.

Motions in limine can be used in both criminal and civil trials in both state and federal court. An attorney can file a motion in limine to exclude evidence that would be prejudicial and negatively influence the jury’s perception of the client. For example, if the client was arrested for other crimes in the past that did not result in convictions, and are not similar or connected to the charges the client now faces, the defense can file a motion in limine to exclude the mention of those other arrests. Note that in some cases, a person’s prior wrongful acts may be admissible and cannot be kept out even through a motion in limine.

If the motion in limine is granted, the defense attorney still has to be diligent at trial to ensure that the ruling is followed. If the prosecution tries to introduce the evidence that was excluded in a pretrial motion, the defense has to object and remind the court of its ruling on the motion. In cases where the motion is not granted, the defense still has to renew its objections at trial when the prosecution enters the evidence in order to preserve the errors and raise them on appeal.

Motions in limine are not required in order to properly exclude evidence at trial. The rules of evidence dictate what evidence is and is not admissible at trial and both sides are required to follow those rules regardless of whether a motion in limine is filed. When one side fails to follow these rules, the other side can simply object at the time the rule is not followed. It is not necessary to tell your opponent prior to trial that they must follow the rules. Sometimes, it makes sense to alert your opponent, and the judge, that a particular piece of evidence should not be discussed in front of the jury. Other times, it is better to wait until the evidence is offered before making the objection. This can be a very important strategic decision that your defense attorney must make when preparing to try your case.

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If you are facing criminal charges in West Palm Beach, Florida, you need a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney representing you. Contact Scott Berry Law for a free consultation today.


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