Motion | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Law

A motion is a request by a litigant to a judge for a decision on an issue relating to the case.

When you hear the term “motion” in the context of criminal justice, you might be confused. After all, we aren’t talking about moving around. So, what does it mean? A motion, in this case, is like asking the teacher a question in class. But instead of a classroom, it’s a court, and instead of a teacher, it’s a judge.

A motion is a formal way a litigant, either the defense or the prosecution, requests the judge to make a decision about something in the case. It’s basically saying, “Your Honor, we need you to look at this issue.”

Types of Motions

There are different types of motions, and each one has a specific purpose. Let’s look at some of the most common ones:

Motion to Dismiss

This is when a party asks the court to throw out a case. For instance, the defense may claim that even if all the prosecution’s facts are true, they don’t add up to a crime.

Summary Judgment

This is used when a party believes there’s no dispute about the important facts of the case, and they should win without needing a full trial.

Motion to Suppress

In criminal cases, a common motion is a motion to suppress. The defense might argue that some evidence should be left out because it was gathered illegally. For example, if the police didn’t have a proper warrant to search a house, any evidence found there might be suppressed.

Motion in Limine

This asks the court to limit what can be discussed in front of the jury. For example, the defense might want to prevent the prosecution from mentioning a defendant’s past crimes to avoid prejudicing the jury.

When and How Motions Are Used

These can be filed before, during, or after a trial. In most situations, the party making the motion must write it down, explaining what they want and why they should get it. The other side then has a chance to respond in writing. Afterward, the judge may hold a hearing to listen to both sides before making a decision.

The Impact

Motions are crucial in the criminal justice process. They can affect how a trial proceeds, what evidence is allowed, and even whether a case goes to trial at all.

All in all, a motion is an essential tool for litigants in a legal case. It allows them to request rulings on specific matters, shaping the course of the proceedings. Whether it is successful can have a significant impact on the case’s outcome, highlighting the importance of this legal maneuver. Understanding them and their role in the courtroom can help us better appreciate the complexities of the criminal justice process.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 06/25/2023

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