Before trial, your criminal defense attorney and the prosecution will respond to or file various motions. A motion is an application to the court made by the prosecution or defense attorney requesting the court to make a decision on a certain issue before the trial begins. Pre-trial motions are tools the prosecutor and your defense attorney use to set the boundaries for trial. The outcome of a motion can affect the trial, courtroom, defendants, evidence, or testimony. A judge will determine the outcome of each motion filed.
With few exceptions, the following steps apply in every case we take at The Ambeau Law Firm. State and federal prosecutions are different in some ways. Below is an outline of the court process in Louisiana.
Motions Related to Criminal Charges
There are several motions that your attorney can file during the pre-trial phase of a criminal defense matter. Many are designed to challenge some of the procedures and processes ahead. It is impossible to list them all, but listed below are some motions regularly filed in criminal defense cases in Louisiana.
Motion for Bill of Particulars is a motion that requires the prosecutor to state the facts upon which the defendant is being charged. This motion is effective if there is a question of whether the facts presented by the prosecution could not meet the elements of the crime charged.
Though it is difficult to imagine how the prosecution would proceed toward a criminal conviction without evidence, it happens. When presented with this unique scenario, we file a motion for bill of particulars to get the prosecutor to state the evidence, or lack of evidence, in the case against the defendant. Then, we follow up with a motion to quash based on the prosecution's inability to state evidence sufficient to charge the crime of prosecution.
Motion to Quash (Duplicitous Charges or Double Jeopardy) is a motion filed if the prosecution is charging the defendant with multiple crimes arising out of one set of acts, or fully encompassed by one set of elements. These are complicated motions based on a complex understanding of the law. These motions should be filed by an attorney with experience bringing these matters before the Courts of Louisiana.
A motion to quash can be made moot by the District Attorney providing open file discovery. Before abandoning the motion, there should be an inquiry into whether the ‘open file' discovery offered by the prosecution is, in fact, an open file and not just a ruse to avoid the bill of particulars.
Motion to Sever (Defendants or Charges) is a motion to bring individuals to trial without the burden of co-defendants if those co-defendants have inconsistent or antagonistic defenses. For example, a person cannot be made to stand trial with a person they will assert committed the crime. Under Louisiana law, separate criminal acts should only be tried together under certain circumstances. Often the defense has to bring that matter before the Court for a decision, as it is prejudicial for a person to be brought to trial on multiple unrelated matters, where the jury would punish them for quantity over quality. In some criminal defense cases, this is among the most important motions filed.
Motions related to evidence received, or not received, in a criminal case are called evidentiary motions. In some cases, there are many, and in others, none at all. The purpose of evidentiary motions is to shape and mold the case for trial.
During pre-trial, attorneys will file motions to collect additional evidence we think may be, or should be, in the prosecution's possession. We also file motions to exclude some evidence for use at trial. These are often motions to:
- Suppress statements, confessions, admissions
- Exclude evidence seized in violation of the law
- Exclude evidence on other grounds
- Exclude other crimes or acts evidence
Evidentiary motions are case-specific and filed as they arise.
Motion to Suppress (Statements, Evidence Seized, Identification, etc.) is the motion most often used to exclude evidence from use at trial. The motion to suppress is used when the grounds for suppression arise from the Constitution of the State of Louisiana or the United States. These motions vary wildly from fairly easy to write and argue to ultra-complex. These can be some of the most complicated, but also the most important motions filed on behalf of our clients. A successful motion to suppress often brings the entire case to an end if the suppressed evidence is essential to the prosecution.
In this part of the representation, your defense attorney will begin gaining access to all of the scientific evidence to be used against the defendant and formulate a strategy to combat this often challenging evidence. Through the use of the motions, we gain access to the evidence and all of the supporting data.
Motion for Supplemental Discovery is the motion filed in cases with forensic science evidence to gain access to the underlying data used to perform tests and analysis in your case. Collection of this evidence and data includes traveling to the State Police Crime Laboratory to examine the different studies and documents related to the testing facility. The response to a typical DNA analysis case is more than 100 pages long and requires specialized training and experience to understand.
Further, it is difficult for a defense attorney effectively cross-examine a scientist who is also often a professional witness. This task takes immense preparation, experience, and often the assistance of defense experts. Our trial attorney, Jarrett Ambeau is a court-qualified Forensic DNA Interpretation Expert in Louisiana and has extensive experience and training in forensic science. He attended the National Forensic College at Cardozo Law School in New York City and earned his Master's Degree in Forensic DNA and Serology to better challenge forensic science in the courtroom.
If there is forensic science evidence in your criminal case, we are prepared to fight the State forensic experts and have done so many times in the Courts of Louisiana. Forensic evidence is difficult to overcome, and hiring a criminal defense attorney with forensic DNA interpretation experience is essential to meet this unique challenge.
During pre-trial, it is important for your criminal defense attorney to speak with witnesses in your case. At The Ambeau Law Firm, we work to interview the witnesses associated with the prosecution, which we are allowed to undertake while informing them of our role and to interview the witnesses associated with the defense.
It is helpful for us to understand how each witness will convey information at trial and their memory of events. It is also important to confirm that the previous statements provided to law enforcement were accurate and truthful.
Cross-examination, when done well, is a remarkable tool for finding the truth. Preparation for a thorough and effective cross-examination requires knowing ahead of time what witnesses recall or may say during trial.
Last, but certainly not least, it is essential that your defense attorney is in communication with defendants and their families during each step of your criminal defense, especially during pre-trial. We stand ready to answer any questions and assist you in getting through this process as painlessly as possible. Because the criminal justice process is slow and cumbersome, the attorneys at The Ambeau Law Firm are here to answer questions and keep you up to date on the progress of your case.
We are always here for you.
REMINDER: DO NOT talk to anyone about your matter before communicating with an attorney. There are times where communication is the best way forward, but that decision should be made with the advice of counsel. If you wish to remain silent the most important thing to do is REMAIN SILENT – DO NOT TALK. If you do not wish to speak, you must invoke your right to counsel by saying something like, “I do not want to answer any questions without speaking to my attorney first.” You have to be clear, if you are not clear, say it over and over again until you get it right – and do not say anything else – REMAIN SILENT.
IMPORTANT: This is not legal advice. I have provided this in an effort to inform you of what to expect, not to advise you on a course of action. Please consult with an attorney before making any decision that may affect your legal rights, liberty, freedom, or safety.
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