What Is a Motion In Limine and What Does It Do?

Judge With Gavel

One of a judge’s jobs is to determine which evidence should be admitted at trial and which should be excluded. A motion in limine requests the court to forbid certain evidence from being presented at trial. 

The purpose of this type of motion is to prevent the jury from hearing evidence that one of the parties believes is inadmissible. For example, a party may believe that certain evidence is irrelevant or will prejudice the jury and, thus, could result in an unjust ruling. Motions in limine can be filed before or during the trial, although, in many cases, they are presented to dispose of evidentiary disputes before a trial begins. 

Although the attorneys can object to evidence during trial instead of filing a motion in limine, this approach has limitations. Most importantly, the jury usually will hear about the challenged evidence before the objection is made. Although some of the details may be suppressed if the court grants the objection, in many cases, there will still be a prejudicial effect because the jury cannot be expected to forget what they heard.

For example, if during testimony a witness references a document in a business dispute that one side wants to exclude from evidence, even if the judge grants the objection, the jury will still know that the document exists. A pretrial motion in limine avoids this result by preventing any mention of the evidence, either in one of the parties’ opening statements or by a witness. 

As we have seen, motions in limine are often used defensively to preclude specific evidence from being admitted. However, they can also be used offensively to obtain a ruling on whether a judge will permit certain evidence to be admitted at trial. For example, a party could use a motion in limine to determine whether a judge will allow an expert witness to testify. Such a ruling will help clarify evidential issues and help encourage a pretrial settlement.

Things to Watch Out for When Filing a Motion in Limine

There are several pitfalls to avoid when filing a motion in limine so that you do not waste the court’s time or hurt your client’s case. 

Clearly explain what evidence you want to exclude.

This is especially important if you believe the mere mention of the evidence in court will unfairly prejudice your client. 

Avoid generic motions in limine.

Do not file a motion that merely asks the court to require the other party to follow the rules of evidence. Likewise, do not file a motion to exclude evidence that no reasonable attorney would offer in the first place, or ask for a blanket ruling on the admissibility of large categories of evidence. Such motions are likely to be denied and may annoy the judge.

Do not file a motion in limine that amounts to a motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment.

These are different motions with different rules, and the former cannot substitute for the latter. If granting a motion in limine will result in the court effectively dismissing all or part of the opposing party’s case, it is probably best characterized as a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment and should be filed as such in compliance with all applicable rules.

For example, some attorneys attempt to use a motion in limine to challenge the overall sufficiency of the evidence as a matter of law. This is not an appropriate issue for a motion in limine, which should be limited to the admissibility of specific evidence.

Contact Counxel Legal Firm

If you would like to learn more about motions in limine, contact us at (480) 744-6621 or at request@counxel.com. Don’t forget to check out the good things that others are saying about the services they received from Timothy Coons on Google.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact request@counxel.com or (480) 744-6621 to request specific information for your situation.

*Conveniently located off the 101 Freeway and the US 60 in the middle of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Queen Creek!

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