Federal Court Motion Practice

Federal Court Motion Practice

What Criminal Defense Attorneys Should Do Before Your Case Goes to Trial.

What Criminal Defense Attorneys Should Do Before Your Case Goes to Trial.

If you are facing federal criminal charges, or you believe that you or your company may be under federal government investigation, you will need knowledgeable and experienced legal representation. In criminal matters where a defendant has been charged, such experience is vital in the beginning stages of litigation, namely motion practice. Specifically, you will want a reputable criminal defense lawyer on your side to identify important issues that require diligent motion practice prior to proceeding to federal trial.

A motion is a document filed with the court, requesting that the judge review an issue and make a ruling. Motion practice is the process of the lawyer filing motions before the court to decide important legal issues leading up to a criminal trial. It’s an essential part of the federal court system process.

Experienced criminal defense lawyers that take federal cases will put the time into reviewing the specifics of your case, and the decisions made on these motions can have a significant impact on the trial.

What is a Motion to Dismiss Indictment?

Grand jury indictments are not generally dismissed. This is because the system is built on trust and the court cannot simply overturn the grand jury’s decision. Generally, the majority of requests for dismissal are related to a defendant’s claim of innocence, and the court leaves that decision to the jury.

That being said, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 12 and 47 provide grounds for a court to grant the dismissal of an indictment. As a result, you will want an experienced federal criminal court attorney to carefully review your case to determine whether dismissal is a viable option for you.

A defendant may bring a motion for dismissal of an indictment based on allegations of a defect in instituting the prosecution or a defect in the indictment or information.

Some examples of defects in institution prosecution include the case being filed in an improper venue (court); preindictment delay; violation of right to speedy trial; selective or vindictive prosecution; and an error in the grand jury or preliminary proceeding.

A defect in the indictment or information would include joining two or more offenses in the same count (duplicity); charging the same offense in more than one count (multiplicity); lack of specificity; improper joinder; and failure to state an offense.

It is possible that the indictment in your case could be flawed in one of the manners described above. Evaluating these initial issues requires knowledgeable defense attorneys that handle federal cases.

What is a Motion for Discovery?

Discovery is a legal term to describe the pretrial process in which the parties exchange evidence related to the case. Pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 12 and 16, a defendant in a criminal matter is entitled to certain discovery.

In a criminal matter, a major part of the discovery process is identifying the evidence that lays the foundation for the charges, and the defendant is entitled to it. This is because the Government cannot simply charge a defendant and then refuse to produce discovery which tends to show guilt. Still, this will not stop the Government from dragging its feet on production.

In such situations, a skilled federal criminal defense attorney would file a motion for discovery. Defense counsel would request the court order the Government to turn over specific sets of discovery for which the defendant is entitled and/or the Government is unjustifiably delaying production.

Typical discovery in a healthcare fraud case would include reports and records made by the investigators; medical and/or billing records; correspondence; statements by the defendant and witnesses (including patients and employees); undercover video and audio recordings; and expert analysis and reports. One of the most important types of evidence is exculpatory evidence, which is evidence that tends to show that a defendant is not guilty. The Government is required to turn over this evidence.

If you have made a reasonable request for discovery and/or the Government has unjustifiably delayed production of evidence, your federal trial lawyer should consider filing a motion for discovery based on the Government’s obligation to disclose the same.

What Is a Motion to Sever Charges or a Motion to Sever Defendants?

It is typical in federal criminal cases for the Government to charge multiple defendants with several counts together. This can be problematic for many reasons.

A primary reason a defendant would want to consider severing charges or defendants is that the defendant may be prejudiced by being charged alongside multiple defendants with other counts. Further, this could prejudice a defendant if the other counts are not related to the charges against the defendant, as well as if the other defendants charged are alleged to have committed more egregious and/or unrelated conduct.

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8 allows for joinder of claims that are of a similar character and arise from the same series of activities and transactions, or that are based on a common plan. This Rule allows for joinder of defendants that participated in the same act or transaction or series of acts or transactions, constituting an offense.

Yet, Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14 provides that, if joinder of offenses or defendants appears to prejudice a defendant, the court may order separate trials on counts or sever the defendants’ trials. A defendant will want to consider the ramifications, including potential prejudice, of being tried alongside other defendants with counts unrelated to the defendant.

If you have been charged alongside other defendants, you should consult with a federal crime defense attorney to see what options you have in severing charges or defendants.

What Is a Motion to Exclude Evidence?

A defendant will want to consider requesting that the court exclude certain evidence from being introduced and considered at trial. There are two methods a defendant can use to do so.

Motion in Limine

A motion in limine is a pretrial motion requesting that evidence be found inadmissible and not be referred to or offered at trial based on the rules of evidence.

For example, a defendant may move to exclude evidence (including personal information, or medical, criminal, or financial records) based on grounds that the evidence is irrelevant, immaterial, unreliable, unduly prejudicial and/or that the probative value is outweighed by the prejudice resulting to the defendant, or on the grounds that it violates another rule of evidence.

Motion to Suppress

A defendant will bring a motion to suppress evidence based on the “exclusionary” rule, pursuant to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 12 and 41(h). The basis of a motion to suppress is that the evidence should be suppressed as it was obtained in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights, which protect individuals from unlawful search and seizure.

In either scenario, you will want a skilled attorney from a federal criminal defense firm to evaluate the admissibility and legality of evidence that is to be admitted at trial. 

What is a Motion to Exclude Expert Testimony (Daubert)?

In complex cases, a jury’s decision can be largely influenced by the expert(s) testifying in the case. As a result, it is imperative that you have federal crime defense attorneys who are not afraid to challenge the Government’s expert witness.

For example, the Government’s expert may rely on the wrong standard to determine criminal culpability. This is improper, as such an analysis misapplies the law and is not helpful for the jury. In addition, an expert may offer an opinion as to the medical necessity of care after only reviewing a fraction of the patient medical records available.

In either case, your federal criminal defense trial lawyer should file a motion requesting that the court exclude the expert’s testimony, or, in the alternative, request a Daubert hearing for the expert testimony to be tested prior to being heard by a jury.

Federal Rule of Evidence 702 relates to expert testimony and requires that the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge aid the trier of fact, as there is nothing helpful about testimony that applies the wrong standard. The court should exercise a gatekeeper function to protect unhelpful and confusing testimony from tainting the jury. Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 119 S. Ct. 1167 (1999).

Importantly, a district court’s task in assessing evidence proffered under Rule 702 is to determine whether the evidence both rests on a reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at hand.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 597; 113 S. Ct. 2786; 125 L. Ed. 2d 469 (1993). The district court must further consider whether the reasoning or methodology underlying the testimony is scientifically valid. Id. at 592-93. Ultimately, an expert may not offer opinion testimony that is tantamount to instructing the jury on the law.

In Daubert, the U.S. Supreme Court attempted to strike a balance between a liberal admissibility standard for relevant evidence and the need to exclude misleading “junk science.” See Amorgianos v. Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp., 303 F.3d 256, 267 (2d Cir. 2002).

Although there is no definitive checklist or test for striking such a balance, Daubert set forth factors that are evaluated as part of this analysis. 509 U.S. at 593. These include whether the theory or technique in question can be (and has been) tested, whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication, whether it has a known or potential rate of error, and, finally, whether the theory or technique enjoys general acceptance in the relevant scientific community. Id. at 594.

In federal criminal cases, the admissibility of expert testimony should be evaluated for admissibility if the following circumstances exist:

    1. An expert relying on a medical malpractice standard (or some other unaccepted standard) to determine criminal culpability. As previously discussed, such an analysis misapplies the law and is not helpful for the jury.
    2. An expert that offers an opinion as to the medical necessity of care after failing to review a representative sample of patient medical records. Here, the analysis does not involve a complete review of patient records and is instead based on the Government’s cherry-picked selection of patient records.
Hiring The Right Federal Criminal Trial Court Lawyer

If you have been charged with a federal crime, be certain that you have a seasoned attorney in your corner. With over 35 years’ experience fighting for clients accused of federal offenses, the federal criminal court attorneys at Chapman Law Group have the vast experience you need, and the aggressive motion practice you will expect, in setting the stage for your trial.

We have four federal criminal defense offices: Detroit, Michigan; Miami and Sarasota, Florida; and Los Angeles/Southern California. Contact us to discuss specifics related to representation in your case.

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