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“An application to the court for an order shall be by motion . . .”

Rule 1:6-2(a)

Motion Practice

As a general matter, a motion is an “application to the court for an order,” such as an order that certain evidence be excluded from the case (i.e., “suppressed”). See R. 1:6-2(a). As suggested on the previous tab, a significant motion in juvenile delinquency proceedings is a motion to suppress, an explanation of which requires a bit of constitutional background.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Paragraph 7, of the New Jersey Constitution protect people from “unreasonable searches and seizures” by government officials such as police officers. Searches and seizures conducted without a warrant—an authorization from a neutral judicial official based on probable cause—are “presumptively invalid,” meaning that the State must prove the search or seizure was constitutionally permissible. State v. Frankel, 179 N.J. 586, 598 (2004). (This dynamic is similar to the State’s obligation to prove the admissibility of a statement given by a juvenile, as discussed on the Custody and Juvenile Statements tab.) “Conversely, when a search [or seizure] is based on a warrant, the search [or seizure] is presumptively valid,” but it may still be possible to challenge it—for instance, if the warrant was issued without probable cause. See State v. Bivins, 226 N.J. 1, 11 (2016).

“[A] person claiming to be aggrieved by an unlawful search and seizure and having reasonable grounds to believe that the evidence obtained may be used against him or her in a penal proceeding, may apply to the [court] to suppress the evidence.” R. 3:5-7(a); see also R. 3:10-2. Filing a motion to this effect will begin the process of briefing, where the parties write their arguments and submit them for the court’s consideration, see R. 3:5-7(b); and, if material facts are disputed, there will be a hearing, where either party may call and examine or cross-examine witnesses, see R. 3:5-7(c). But if the search or seizure is presumptively invalid, because it was undertaken without a warrant, only the State has a burden at the hearing—namely to prove “by a preponderance of the evidence the constitutionality of the search” or seizure. See State v. Johnson, 193 N.J. 528, 549 n.4 (2008). (A juvenile may also move to suppress his or her statements to police, but as described on the Custody and Juvenile Statements tab, it is the State’s obligation to move to admit such evidence if it wishes to do so.)

Suppression of evidence may undermine—if not outright gut—the State’s case, such as when a juvenile is charged with possession of a weapon and the alleged weapon is suppressed. Accordingly, spotting potential bases for suppression, moving on them in a timely manner, and effectively using the opportunity to examine witnesses at a hearing are crucial to an effective defense. Cf. R. 3:5-7(f).

Although there is a virtually limitless class of motions, this primer will note only a few more briefly:

  • A motion to dismiss a charge is appropriate when there is insufficent evidence to support at least one element of that charge—which is a fairly high bar because, on the motion, the court “view[s] the evidence and the rational inferences drawn from that evidence in the light most favorable to the State.” See State v. Twiggs, 233 N.J. 513, 544 (2018). A juvenile may move to dismiss an entire complaint if each charge suffers from that kind of evidentiary defect, or if the complaint is based on constitutional or other legal violations. Cf. State v. Hogan, 144 N.J. 216, 236 (N.J. 1996) (“Our State Constitution envisions a grand jury that protects persons who are victims of personal animus, partisanship, or inappropriate zeal on the part of a prosecutor.”).
  • A motion in limine—“in limine” meaning roughly “at the threshold”—is the name of the general class of motions aimed at excluding or including certain evidence from a trial proceeding. (For juveniles, the trial proceeding is the delinquency hearing, as discussed on its own tab). One might say that motions to admit juvenile statements and motions to suppress evidence are both kinds of motions in limine. But motions in limine can cover virtually anything that might come up during a delinquency hearing—such as the prosecutor’s attempt to present evidence of a juvenile’s other alleged bad behaviors. See N.J.R.E. 404(b).
  • A juvenile may also file a motion to accelerate case proceedings if there is a potential for irreparable harm in delay. See State in Interest of S.T., 233 N.J. Super. 598, 608 (N.J. Super. 1989).

A process analagous to filing motions and often procedurally crucial is providing written notice to the court “if the defendant [juvenile] intends to rely on any of” certain defenses, R. 3:12-1, or if he or she intends to rely on an alibi, R. 3:12-2.

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