Pre-trial motions are usually written documents filed by a party to the case requesting the court take a specific action. For instance, a defense lawyer may file a pretrial motion to exclude a portion of the evidence that has been acquired inappropriately. Pre-trial motions are used by both the prosecution and the defense to determine the scope of evidence and arguments that can be made during the trial.
After a pretrial motion is filed, both sides will have the chance to argue the merits of the request to the judge, usually during a court hearing. Pre-trial motions can be a vital tool for defending DUI charges. Successful motions can potentially keep the prosecution from bringing certain charges, offering damaging evidence in the trial, or using specific witnesses against you.
Certain pre-trial motions, if successful, can have the entire criminal case dismissed before ever going to trial (e.g., pre-trial motion to dismiss).
When Must Pre-Trial DUI Motions Be Made?
Typically, pre-trial DUI motions are filed after the preliminary hearing but before the case goes to trial. Nevertheless, pre-trial motions can have stringent deadlines depending on the type of motion.
If a motion is not filed before its corresponding deadline, it is deemed to be waived, and you will no longer be able to bring the motion in the future (even if it is a reasonable request). Motion deadlines can be found in the local court rules or may be set by the judge handling the case.
To ensure that you do not waive the right to valid motions, you should consult an experienced criminal attorney to avoid missing important deadlines.
What Typical Arguments are Made During Pre-Trial Motions?
There are many possible pre-trial motions available in a DUI case, but some of the more common examples include:
- Evidence should be excluded because the evidence found results from an illegal search.
- Confession made regarding the DUI arrest at the scene or afterward should be excluded because the police failed to advise the suspect of his Miranda Rights.
- A breathalyzer test result should be excluded because the equipment used was erroneous or the procedure used by the officer was inadequate.
- A “scientific evidence argument,” meaning whatever scientific test was used to check the defendant, should be deemed invalid as it does not accurately show that the defendant was intoxicated.
Suppose the arresting officer acted inappropriately at the scene of the DUI. In that case, you may be able to request the officer’s personnel file to look for evidence of past indiscretions such as:
- Racial bias;
- Excessive force;
- False arrest;
- Planting evidence;
- Harassment; or
- Criminal conduct.
Further, the case could be dismissed due to egregious prosecutorial wrongdoing, such as failing to share with the defense any evidence that may clear the defendant of guilt (the Brady Rule).
The case could also be dismissed because the court disregarded the defendant’s right to a speedy trial.
What Are Miranda Rights Pertaining to a DUI Arrest?
The 5th Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination protects people from being a witness against themselves. All statements made during custodial interrogations of a government agent or law enforcement cannot be used against the person without Miranda warnings.
A person’s Miranda rights must be invoked immediately upon a DUI arrest or once in custody.
The Miranda warnings are:
- You have the remain silent
- If you do say anything, what you say can be used against you in a court of law
- You have a right to an attorney, and you have a right to have the lawyer present during questioning
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you
When Are My Miranda Rights Required?
Miranda warnings are required once the person is in custody and under interrogation by law enforcement.
- Custody: A person is in custody once they are deprived of their freedom of action in any significant way and cannot leave of their free will. This can happen in jail, at the DUI scene, in public, etc. Once in custody, police must give the individual a Miranda warning before questioning. Being pulled over or a brief questioning by police during a stop would not be considered being in custody, and police are not required to give Miranda warnings.
- Interrogations: Interrogations are any police questioning that the police know or should know would require an incriminating response. Any interrogations of police of a person in custody require Miranda warnings, or any statements made would be inadmissible unless voluntary waiver.
- Waiver: A person can waive their Miranda Rights and right to have an attorney present during custodial interrogations. The waiver must be made knowingly and voluntarily without any police coercion or influence.
Can I Be Arrested for DUI Without Being Read My Miranda Rights?
Miranda Rights only protect against incriminating oneself during custodial interrogation. All the police need to arrest someone is probable cause. The police are only required to read the Miranda Rights when interrogating a suspect in police custody. The police know when Miranda Rights need to be read and often will question a person during a DUI stop without placing that person under arrest.
Overview of the Reasonable Expectation of Privacy
Searches and seizures are mainly governed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment essentially guarantees all U.S. citizens protection from illegal searches or seizures — when conducted by law enforcement — of their property, body, personal belongings, and other areas in which they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Places in which a person generally has a reasonable expectation of privacy include:
- A person’s residence (e.g., apartments, houses, motor homes, houseboats, etc.);
- Locations where an individual has permission to stay as an overnight guest (e.g., property other than their primary residence, hotels, or at a friend’s house);
- Certain areas of a motor vehicle (like a locked trunk or closed container);
- Specific public places (e.g., a public restroom stall); and
- Property or personal belongings that one has but does not actually own.
Therefore, according to the rights afforded by the Fourth Amendment, the places listed above should receive the utmost protection when law enforcement searches, including during DUI stops. This usually means that law enforcement must obtain a warrant if they plan to search an area where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
For example, a person would reasonably expect privacy in their own home. Therefore, if the government or law enforcement barged in without a warrant or good-faith reason, it would be a legitimate invasion of their privacy and could suppress any evidence obtained.
What Kinds of Searches Can Be Conducted?
Several different searches can be conducted legally, including:
- Searches that take place after receiving a proper warrant;
- Searches where a warrant may be improper, but the good-faith exception applies; and
- When the search falls under one of the warrantless exception scenarios (e.g., consent was given, done in “hot pursuit,” etc.).
The police cannot arbitrarily search your car without evidence of a crime.
Should I Contact a Lawyer Regarding My DUI Pre-Trial Motion?
DUI convictions can have severe and lasting consequences. If you have been charged with a DUI, you should immediately contact a local DUI/DWI lawyer.
A criminal attorney can evaluate your case and file any appropriate pre-trial motions that are available to assist you in defending against the criminal charges. In addition, an attorney can gather evidence, negotiate with the prosecutor, depose witnesses, and represent your interests in court.