With few exceptions these steps apply in every case we take at The Ambeau Law Firm. State and federal prosecutions are different in some ways, I have focused on the state process below.
MOTIONS RELATED TO CHARGES: There are a number of motions that can be filed at this stage, and before, that are designed to challenge some of the procedure and process ahead. It is not possible to list them all, but I will address some of the more regularly filed motions.
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 as presented by the prosecution could not meet the elements of the crime charged. Though it is difficult to imagine how the prosecution would proceed for a crime where the prosecution did not have evidence of any kind, it happens. When presented with that scenario, we file this motion to get the prosecutor to state the evidence, or lack of evidence, and then follow it with a motion to quash based on the inability of the prosecution to state evidence sufficient to charge the crime of prosecution. This is a very complicated procedural device and should be handled by an attorney with extensive experience. Additionally, this motion can be made moot, interestingly, by the District Attorney providing open file discovery. But again, prior to abandoning the motion there should be an inquiry into whether the ‘open file’ discovery offered by the prosecution is in fact 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 instance, a person cannot be made to stand trial with a person they will assert committed the crime. It is also in the laws of the State of Louisiana that separate criminal acts should only be tried together under certain circumstances. Often times 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. This is an important motion at times.
Motion to Quash (Duplicitous Charges or Double Jeopardy) is the motion to file 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 a complicated motions and based in fairly complex understanding of the law. These motions should be filed by an attorney with experience bringing these matters before the Courts of Louisiana.
EVIDENTIARY MOTIONS: There are many motions we can file related to the evidence received, or not received, in a criminal case. It is not possible to cover every motion that is filed during this time in pre-trial representation. In some cases there are many, in some none at all. Our purpose during this time is to begin to shape and mold the case for trial. We file motions during this time to collect additional evidence we think may be, or should be, in the possession of the prosecution. We also file motions during this time to exclude some evidence for use at trial, such as motions to suppress statements/confessions/admissions, motions to exclude evidence seized in violation of the law, motions to exclude evidence on other grounds, motions to exclude other crimes/acts evidence, etc… These motions are very case specific and are filed as they arise in particular cases.
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. A motion to suppress in one case can be successful in two paragraphs and fail in another with a fifteen page motion. 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 evidence being suppressed in essential to the prosecution.
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE: It is in this part of the representation that we begin the process of gaining access to the full measure of the scientific evidence to be used against our client, and begin to formulate a strategy to combat this often challenging evidence. Through the use of the motions that follow we gain access to the evidence and all of the supporting data. This collection of information is useless without the proper experience and/or training in the applicable field of forensic science. It is no easy task to cross examine a scientist, who is also often a professional witness, and do so effectively. This task takes immense preparation and experience, and often the assistance of defense experts. Our trial attorney, Jarrett Ambeau, has extensive experience and training in forensic science. He attended the National Forensic College at Cardozo Law School in New York City; and is currently completing a Masters Degree in Forensic DNA and Serology, to better meet the challenge of forensic science in the courtroom. If there is forensic science evidence in your case we are prepared to bring a monumental challenge to the State forensic experts, and have done so many times in the Courts of Louisiana. This evidence is very difficult to overcome and hiring someone with experience is essential to meeting this unique challenge.
Our trial attorney, Jarrett Ambeau, has been hired by other attorneys for the purpose of challenging the forensic science in their cases, in both State and Federal court.
Motion for Supplemental Discovery is the motion we file in cases with forensic science evidence to gain access to the underlying data used to perform tests and analysis in your case. This 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 can number in the 100s of pages and requires specialized training and/or experience to understand even at the basic level.
WITNESSES: It is also important during this time to speak with witnesses in your case. 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 important to understand how each of these persons are going to convey information at trial, and how accurate their memory is related to the events. It is also important to confirm that the previous statements, if given to law enforcement, were accurate and truthful. Cross examination done well is a remarkable tool for finding the truth, and preparation for that requires confirming what witnesses will say.
COMMUNICATION: It is essential that we remain in communication with defendants and their families. We stand ready to answer any questions and assist you in getting through this process as painless as possible. Because the process is slow and cumbersome, we are here to answer questions and keep you up to date on the progress of your case. We are always here for you.
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.
NEXT: Jury Trial