A motion to exclude or admit evidence is referred to as a motion in limine. It asks the court to rule on the admissibility of evidence before the evidence goes in front of the jury. Generally, a motion in limine is used to exclude evidence. However, motions in limine may be used to request favorable pretrial rulings on the admissibility of evidence.
A motion in limine is generally brought at the beginning of trial. It may also be brought during trial. Typically defense lawyers file motions in limine to keep the jury from knowing about inadmissible and prejudicial evidence.
Motion in Limine Procedure
A party may file a motion in limine asking the court to exclude certain testimony or exhibits. The party asking for the order should state the specific prejudice it will suffer if the motion isn't granted. Generally, notice of the motion must be given to the other side.
Purpose of a Motion in Limine
The purpose of the motion in limine is to get a judge to rule that certain evidence can't be shown to the jury. For example, a defendant might ask the judge to rule that the prosecutor can't refer to his prior conviction. If the judge grants the motion, neither the prosecutor nor witnesses can refer to the conviction during the trial.
Scope of a Motion in Limine
The scope of a motion in limine covers any kind of evidence that could be objected to at trial, either as irrelevant or prejudicial, including evidence of:
- An injured party's compensation for medical expenses from a source other than the person who caused the injury
- An injured party's compensation for loss of wages from a source other than the person that caused the injury
- Estimated future income tax or other deductions from plaintiff's expected gross salary
- An injured party's compensation for property damages from a source other than the person who caused the injury
- The surviving spouse's remarriage or intent to remarry in a wrongful death action
- The heirs' wealth or poverty in a wrongful death action
- A prior felony conviction to impeach a witness's credibility where a pardon has been granted
- An offer to compromise
Objections to Evidence during Trial
The defense can make an objection to the prosecution's evidence during the trial even if it didn't make a pretrial motion. By waiting until trial to object to the admissibility of evidence, there is a possibility that the jurors will hear the objectionable evidence before the defense can object to it.
When a motion in limine is made during trial, however, the arguments on the motion are heard without the jury present.
A judge doesn't need to rule on a pretrial motion in limine before a trial begins. Sometimes judges wait until a trial starts to rule on the admissibility of evidence. A typical order in limine excludes the challenged evidence and directs counsel, parties and witnesses not to refer to the excluded matters during trial.
A judge's ruling on a motion in limine can be appealed.
Questions for Your Attorney
- If the defense didn't make a pretrial motion in limine, can the defense object to evidence during trial?
- May a judge wait until the trial begins to rule on a pretrial motion in limine?
- Is there any situation where it would be best to file a motion in limine during trial rather than before the trial?