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Criminal Defense Motions

There are certain motions that the Defense may file before trial. These motions are all subject to certain timing constraints. Information about these motions can be found in Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.11.

Bill Of Particulars

This motion is made when an indictment or information charges a Defendant with an offense, but does not specify the particulars of the charged offense to allow the Defendant to prepare an adequate defense.  A Motion for a Bill of Particulars is thus a request to the Court to require the State to supply more information about the charged crime.  This must be filed within 10 days of the earlier of the date of the arraignment, or the date the written arraignment is filed, but the time period can be extended for good cause.

Objections Based On Defects In The Institution Of The Prosecution

There are certain rules and procedure the State must follow when instituting prosecution. This motion is filed when there was a problem with how the State handled instituting the prosecution.

Defenses And Objections Based On Defects In The Indictment Or Information

There are also rules and procedures that the State must follow when charging somebody by indictment or information. Certain defenses and objections can exist based on the indictment or the information and this motion is used to raise them. However, no defense or objection can be raised on the ground that the indictment or information fails to show jurisdiction in the court or to raise any defenses or objections that can be raised another way, like through another pretrial motion.

Notice Of Defense

The Defendant is required to notify the State of any evidence that he or she plans to present in order to establish a defense. The following is a list of the defenses:

  • Alibi
  • Insanity
  • Diminished Responsibility
  • Intoxication
  • Entrapment
  • Self-Defense

Request For Discovery

The Defendant has a right to view the State’s evidence.  Obtaining evidence from the opposing party is called the discovery process.  The Defense must make a request for discovery to view or obtain the evidence that the State intends to present at trial.

Notice of Deposition

A deposition is the taking of sworn testimony by oral examination in an out-of-court setting.  The testimony is recorded by a court-reporter.  It is used for discovery purposes and is sometimes used in court.

Motion To Suppress

A motion to suppress is filed with the court when the Defendant’s rights were violated during the police investigation.  Generally, a motion to suppress challenges violations arising from an illegal search and seizure.  The violated rights are found under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as under Article 1, Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution.  A motion to suppress may also challenge violations of the Fifth and Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution (and the corresponding sections of the Iowa Constitution and Code), as well as under certain statutory provisions.  A successful motion to suppress will cause a judge to rule that any evidence gained in violation of the Defendant’s rights is inadmissible at trial.

Request For Severance

When there are multiple parties charged with the same crime, they can be charged as co-defendants.  This means that they will have a joint trial, where they will all be tried at the same time.  There are situations where the best course of action is to try each person separately.  If a judge grants the Defendant’s request for severance in that situation, then he or she will be tried separately from any codefendant.  A motion to sever can also be used where the Defendant is charged with multiple crimes.  In that case, each of the severed charges is tried at a separate trial.

Change Of Venue

A criminal charge is generally tried in the county in which the events occurred.  However, there are sometimes circumstances that require that a trial take place in another county, such as when there has been a lot of pretrial publicity.  In that situation, a judge may grant a change of venue in order to avoid juror bias created by prior knowledge of the case.

Change Of Judge

Just like the change of venue, situations can arise where it is inappropriate for a sitting judge to preside over a case.  The court will grant the motion when it is satisfied that prejudice exists on the part of the judge.  A new judge will preside over the case.  Note that the venue will not necessarily change.

Waiver Of Jury Trial

While a person has an absolute right to a jury trial, there may be certain circumstances when it is in the Defendant’s best interest to waive the right to trial by jury and to try the case to a judge.

Motion in Limine

A motion in limine is filed in order to obtain a ruling on the admissibility of certain evidence prior to trial.  The motion is filed when grounds for the motion appear but must be filed 9 or more days before trial.


Each of the above motions, with the exception of the motion for a bill of particulars, the notice of an alibi defense and the motion in limine, must be filed within 40 days of either the scheduled date of the arraignment, or the filing of the written arraignment, whichever comes first.  The Motion in Limine must be filed 9 or more days before trial.  The notice of alibi must be filed within ten days of filing of Defendant’s witness list.  The Bill of particulars must be filed within ten days of the arraignment or the filing of the written arraignment, whichever happened first.

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