Preparing for federal crime trials

If the defendant is indicted by the grand jury, the preliminary examination is canceled and the defendant is arraigned on the indictment. As before, this arraignment merely consists of the defendant being told of the charges in the indictment and of the defendant’s entry of a plea (not guilty). The case is then assigned to a district judge for motions and trial setting.

Legal Motions

Motions are simply requests for the judge to do something. The most common motions are for: Discovery, where the defendant is asking the judge to order the prosecutor to turn over discovery as required by law; A motion to suppress statements of the defendant because of Miranda violations or the coercion of the statements; A motion to suppress evidence due to an illegal search or seizure of that evidence; A motion to sever the defendant’s case from the case against other codefendants being tried with him or to obtain a separate trial of some of the charges against the defendant. Other common motions ask the court to exclude or include certain evidence under the rules of evidence.


The laws and rules in this area are always in a little flux. Generally, a defendant is absolutely entitled to receive a copy of any oral or written statements he/she allegedly made to agents, tangible objects, scientific tests OR reports which the prosecutor intends to use in evidence, and witness statements which are usually contained in reports of investigation filled out by the arresting agents. Some discovery should be turned over to the defendant well before trial, but some material, such as the witness statements, is not required to be turned over until after that witness testifies.

A defendant is entitled under the due process clause of the constitution to have the government turn over any evidence in its possession which is exculpatory (that is, which tends to prove his or her innocence) as well as evidence which might cast doubt upon the credibility of government witnesses (such as inconsistent statements or evidence of bias or motive to fabricate).

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