Motions in Criminal Cases in Florida

January 6, 2022 Criminal Defense

There are many different motions available to defense counsel during criminal legal proceedings. A motion is an application to the court that is made by the prosecutor or defense attorney requesting that the court makes a decision on a specific issue before the trial or proceeding begins. The said motion can affect the trial, courtroom, defendants, evidence, or testimony. It is important to note that only judges can decide on the outcome of a motion.

Generally, each defense motion must be in writing and signed by the attorney of the defendant. The requirement can be waived by the court if good cause is presented. Each motion or other pleading needs to state the ground on which it is based. There is also a certificate of service required to accompany the filing of the pleading.

This blog covers the different types of motions in criminal cases in Florida, as well as the process and their importance in the courtroom.

Types of Motions

There are a lot of different motions that can be applied in a criminal case. The following is a list of common motions in criminal cases and what they mean:

Motions for a Pretrial Release

As described in Rule 3.131 Pretrial Release, unless the defendant has been charged with a capital offense that is punishable by life in prison, and the proof of guilt is evident or there is a great presumption, every person who has been charged with a crime is entitled to a pretrial release on reasonable conditions. The motion is filed by the defendant when the bail is set.

Under Florida Statute Section 903.047, the conditions of a pretrial release can be completed through bail bond or recognizance bond. The defendant must refrain from any criminal activity if they have been granted release from custody. If the court issues an order of no contact, the defendant must refrain from any type of contact with the victim, except as seen through the pretrial discovery pursuant to the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Motions for Continuance

A motion for continuance is a grant for additional preparation time before commencing trial, or during trial. It can either be the defense or the prosecution that requests a motion for continuance and in some cases, the court can order a continuance of its own accord. The reason for a continuance to be motioned is usually because the attorneys wish for more time to prepare for a trial. It is open to interpretation as to what constitutes as reasonable enough time and can often depend on the circumstances of the trial. The following is a general list of reasons for each side to be given sufficient time:

  • Reviewing the evidence
  • Investigating the facts
  • Consulting with witnesses
  • Negotiating a plea agreement (if there is the possibility of one)
  • Holding lawyer-client meetings

Considering that continuances cause a delay in the case docket, it can be frowned upon by the courts. If a defendant’s rights have been violated, then a judge is likely to grant a continuance request.

Motion to Compel Discovery

A motion to compel asks the court to enforce a request for information that is relevant to a specific case. Discovery is an important step in the legal process. It is the time during which each party requests specific information from the opposing party. Discovery is reviewed by each side to build their case. If one of the sides neglect to respond to a discovery request, then the other side can file a motion to compel the requested discovery.

A party can move to compel discovery if the other side fails to answer a question, there is a failure in designating a party to testify, there is a failure in answering an interrogatory, or if the party fails to respond to inspection as requested. At the motion hearing, the cases of both sides are presented to the court. After hearing both sides, the judge can either order the opposition to provide discovery by a deadline, deny the motion to compel, or grant in part but deny in part the motion, and will require some of the discovery to be provided. If the motion to compel has been granted by the judge, the court requires the party whose conduct necessitated the motion to pay the moving party’s attorney fees.

Motion to Suppress

In Florida, a motion to suppress is filed when certain information is meant to be kept from presentation to the jury or factfinder. The three common types of motions to suppress include motions to suppress physical evidence, motions to suppress confessions or admissions, and motions to suppress an identification. It is important to note that these motions can be used in trial even if the withheld information is true. Generally the most important factor is whether the information would be prejudicial to the defendant, meaning it would result in an unfair trial result. Another important factor is if the information is irrelevant, and would taint the minds of the factfinders without providing any substantive value on issues presented. Suppression motions are most useful when they are made before the trial because then the parties will avoid any delay during the trial period. If a defendant were to testify at a suppression motion hearing, his or her testimony cannot be used against them to prove their guilt, unless he or she objects to the use. The following are the three types of suppression motions:

Motion to Suppress Physical Evidence

This type of motion is used when it is argued that the search and seizure of evidence violated the defendant’s constitutional rights, arguing that the evidence should be excluded. Within the motion, counsel must clearly identify which evidence is meant to be suppressed and the reason behind it. Examples of reasons for evidence getting suppressed include if the person was stopped when there was no probable cause, if there was no search warrant used, or if the evidence was found through outrageous police misconduct.

 Motion to Suppress Confession or Admission

This type of motion is used to argue that a confession or admission was not voluntarily or freely given. It must be explained and proven that the confession was illegally obtained. If a police officer coerces a defendant through force, deprivation, or threats and promises, then a confession can be considered involuntary. An illegal admission can also be found if a law enforcement officer fails to inform the defendant of his or her Miranda rights prior to the interrogation.

 The State must show with evidence that the confession or admission was free and voluntary after a defendant files a motion to suppress a confession or admission. It must be proven that, more likely than not, the defendant confessed or admitted freely and voluntarily and was duly informed of their constitutional rights.

Motion to Suppress an Identification

This type of motion is used to keep out a pretrial identification of the defendant when there is a violation of their due process rights. Unduly suggestive identification procedures can deem identifications inadmissible as that suggestiveness can affect the reliability of the identification. The following are reasons for the identification procedure to be deemed improper:

  • The defendant stands out in a lineup based on age, size, or apparel;
  • An officer makes comments that potentially taint the identification process;
  • The defendant is shown by themselves to the witness in a show-up identification process.

The defendant must show that the identification process was improper and that it creates a risk of misidentification.

What is the Process of Filing a Motion?

There is a specific process that must take place when filing a motion. An application must be made in writing unless the court permits otherwise. Within the contents of a motion, it must state with particularity the grounds of the said motion, the relief sought, and the legal argument necessary to support it.

Along with the motion paperwork there are accompanying documents required as well, depending on the case and motion type. If there are any affidavits or other papers to support the motion, they must contain relevant factual information and be served and filed with the motion.

After a motion has been filed, the other party may file a response to it. The response needs to be filed within 10 days after the motion was served unless the court has extended or shortened the time. Any reply to a response must be filed within 7 days after the service of the response.

The court can act on a motion for a procedural order at any time without waiting for a response and may authorize a clerk to act on the type of procedural motions. A circuit judge can act alone on any motion but cannot dismiss or determine an appeal on their own.

The Importance of Motion Practice in Criminal Cases

Overall, a motion is a method to speak to a judge about a specific matter pertaining to your case. Motions are strategically important to cases, and it is especially important to keep track of and understand the different types of motions available to you. The court will not file a motion on your behalf if you fail to do so, so it is important to be aware of all your options. The best way to ensure you are up to date on all the motions is to contact an experienced defense attorney to provide advice for your case.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime in Tallahassee or anywhere in Florida, it is imperative that you seek out the help of an experienced defense attorney. There may be defenses available to your specific case, or motions that can be filed under certain circumstances, that can change the outcome of your legal battle. With the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney, you have the best chance at a positive outcome regarding your case. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients and perfecting criminal motion practice. They have the skill and expertise required to defend your case, and they are prepared to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. Call (850) 681-7777 today and receive a free consultation.

This article was written by Karissa Key

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