Motions and Continuances

Definition: Defense motions and requests for continuances can result in delaying a case from reaching a resolution. Without appropriate docket control, these delays can increase the likelihood of a case dismissal or acquittal for repeat and hard core offenders.

Executive Summary: Pre-trial motions can delay proceedings for several weeks or even months. Multiple continuances may result in a dismissal or acquittal for their defendants when prosecutors are unable to adequately respond to filed motions. Consequently, police officers and other witnesses are less likely to attend court hearings when there are delays. Therefore, these delays can result in missed identification and conviction of repeat offenders and hardcore alcohol-impaired drivers. Model time standards for misdemeanor criminal cases are 90% resolved within 30 days of filing and 100% resolved within 90 days.  Judges have a responsibility to manage their dockets to ensure that defense pretrial motions  and request for continuances do not unduly delay the case.

More Detail: DUI cases are often the responsibility of new and less-experienced prosecutors. A 2002 study by Robertson and Simpson showed that almost half of such prosecutors reported being inadequately prepared to handle DUI cases and over a third of judges believe that prosecutors do not have equal knowledge as defense attorneys in these cases. The prosecution is therefore sometimes hesitant or unprepared, to challenge motions filed by seasoned defense attorneys. Prosecutors, especially in rural jurisdictions, often work with insufficient resources and may lack necessary up-to-date reference materials and/or access to recent cases that could help their responses to defense motions. As a result, prosecutors may be more likely to negotiate a plea agreement involving lesser charges or a reduced sentence to avoid proceeding to court and potentially losing a case.

To overcome this problem, traffic safety resource prosecutor positions are being created and/or enhanced in some jurisdictions to provide education, guidance, and advice.


Suggested Audience: Prosecutors, Judges


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