Man in handcuffs talking to lawyer about pretrial motions in criminal cases

How an Experienced Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney Uses Pretrial Motions to Fight Your Charges 

Being charged with a crime in Charlotte can be a frightening experience that can have long-term consequences. You must do everything you can to fight the charges—even if you’re guilty. You need the help of an experienced Charlotte criminal defense lawyer at Browning & Long, PLLC, to aggressively defend you. We are former prosecutors and know how they will try to convict you. We have defense strategies, including filing pretrial motions, that can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your criminal case. 

If you’re facing criminal charges in Mecklenburg County, you could be punished harshly if convicted of the crime you’re accused of committing. After arrest, your first step should be to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Charlotte who can raise your defenses to beat the charges. One potent tool in the arsenal of a Charlotte criminal defense attorney is the strategic utilization of pretrial motions. These motions can wield significant influence throughout your case, potentially leading to the criminal case being dismissed or reduced to a less serious crime through a plea bargain

What Constitutes a Pretrial Motion in North Carolina Criminal Cases?

A pretrial motion is a formal request made by either party involved in a legal proceeding that asks the court to take specific actions in a criminal case. They’re often filed before the trial commences. These motions serve multifaceted purposes, including challenging evidence, seeking alterations in venue, or petitioning for specific legal actions. 

For individuals grappling with criminal charges, pretrial motions form a crucial component of the defense strategy, providing a mechanism to identify and address pivotal issues before the trial unfolds. These motions help a person even if they believe they’re falsely accused of a crime or guilty. 

Common Pretrial Motions a Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyer Can File 

Certain motions can be filed in misdemeanor cases—such as reckless driving or DWI—or in more serious felony cases. The specific motions that are most effective depend on the circumstances surrounding an individual's arrest and the prosecution's case against them. If the motion is granted, the prosecutor could be prohibited from using a key piece of evidence that might result in the charges being dismissed if all the elements of the crime haven’t been established. In addition, these motions also give a criminal defense lawyer ammunition to argue that the prosecutor cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, which could provide leverage to work out a favorable plea agreement for their client.

At Browning & Long, PLLC, we understand how important pretrial motions can be to your defense. Here are common ones we may be able to file to defend you. 

Motion to Dismiss

One of the most helpful motions in a criminal case can be a motion to dismiss the case. Our criminal defense lawyers would file this motion if a fatal flaw in the criminal case against our client person exists. Common grounds to file a motion to dismiss include:

  • There’s insufficient evidence. The prosecution must have sufficient evidence of each element to convict a person of the crime they're accused of committing. If there’s not enough evidence to establish a defendant committed the offense, we may be able to file a successful motion to dismiss.
  • The police didn’t have probable cause to stop the person. If the police didn’t have probable cause to conduct a traffic stop, search someone, or arrest them, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to get the charges against an individual dismissed.
  • An individual’s constitutional rights were violated. Violations of an accused person's constitutional rights can be strong grounds to convince a judge to dismiss a criminal case. Typical violations of important constitutional rights may include:
    • Failure to issue an individual their Miranda warnings
    • Unlawful search and seizure
    • Violation of the right to a speedy trial
    • The prohibition against double jeopardy 

Motion to Suppress Evidence

Another powerful pretrial motion a criminal defense lawyer can use is to file a motion to suppress evidence. They would argue that the prosecutor should be prohibited from using evidence against the accused because it was illegally obtained, or improperly handled by the police once it was in their possession. Grounds to suppress evidence include failure to obtain a search warrant, improper collection of the evidence, violations of constitutional rights, or chain of custody problems after law enforcement obtained evidence. 

Motion to Change Venue

This motion seeks to relocate the trial to a different locale to safeguard a defendant's right to a fair and impartial trial. It’s often prompted by concerns about media coverage or community bias that may make it impossible to select an unbiased jury.

Motion for Discovery

In a criminal case, an accused person has a constitutional right to know about certain evidence the prosecutor plans to use to try to convict them. Prosecutors are required to provide exculpatory evidence, which is any evidence that’s material to an individual’s guilt or innocence. 

Filing a motion for discovery can be a proactive defense step to gather crucial information from the prosecution. It can also be used if a criminal defense attorney believes the prosecutor isn’t disclosing all the evidence they’re legally required to provide to the defendant.

By compelling the prosecution to disclose their evidence and case strategy, the defense gains strategic insights to tailor their defense. This helps a lawyer uncover weaknesses in the prosecution's case early on and determine if a motion to suppress evidence or to dismiss the criminal case is justified. It allows for informed decision-making and a more effective defense strategy.

Motion in Limine

A motion in limine requests that certain evidence or testimony not be allowed at trial or that the prosecutor not make certain statements, such as that the accused exercised their constitutional right to remain silent, at trial. The basis of the motion is that the evidence, testimony, or prosecutor's statements would be prejudicial to the accused individual. 

Motion to Reduce Bail

Another common pretrial motion filed in criminal cases is one for bail if no bail was set or a motion to reduce bail if the accused cannot afford to pay the amount set by the judge. If the motion is granted, a defendant can avoid incarceration while their case is being decided. 

Motion for a Continuance

A criminal defense lawyer could also file a motion for a continuance to delay the trial date. They must show a good reason that the trial should be delayed, such as needing more time to prepare for trial, an unavailability of witnesses, or other unanticipated circumstances.

When Can Pretrial Motions Be Filed in North Carolina?

North Carolina General Statute §15A-952 sets the deadlines for filing pretrial motions in Charlotte criminal cases. Motions raising a defense or objection that can be determined without a trial or the failure of a pleading charging someone with a criminal offense can be filed at any time. Other motions—such as a motion for a change of venue or a continuance—must generally be filed before the arraignment unless the judge allows them to be filed at a later date.

The effectiveness of pretrial motions to a strong defense strategy can’t be overstated. It’s essential to entrust your defense to an experienced criminal defense attorney who has the knowledge and dedication to navigate the nuances of each motion and strategically deploy them to build a robust defense tailored to the specifics of your case. The stakes are high, and the right legal representation can be the difference between an unfavorable outcome and a successful defense.

C. Todd Browning
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Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer