RHODE ISLAND CRIMINAL DEFENSE A Practice Manual – Pre-Trial Motions

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A Practice Manual, 4th Edition
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Pre-Trial Motions

SUP. CT. R. CRIM. P. 47: Motions

An application to the court for an order shall be by motion. A motion other than one made during a trial or hearing shall be in writing unless the court permits it to be made orally. It shall state with particularity the grounds upon which it is made and shall set forth the relief or order sought. It may be supported by affidavit. The requirement of writing is fulfilled if the motion is stated in a written notice of the hearing of the motion.

State v. DeWolfe, 402 A.2d 740 (RI 1979). “.defendant’s written suppression motion submitted to the court below neither mentions the search warrant nor the affidavit. Nor did defendant orally supplement his motion at the hearing with any explanation why he thought the search warrant was invalid or the affidavit insufficient. Alleging mere conclusions — that the warrant and affidavit were ‘not sufficient’ — is not enough. . As one court has remarked, ‘[evidentiary] hearings need be held only when the moving papers allege facts with sufficient definiteness, clarity, and specificity to enable the trial court to conclude that relief must be granted if the facts alleged are proved.’” Id. at 743.

State v. Dustin, 874 A.2d 244 (R.I. 2005). Defendant convicted of two counts of possession appealed the denial of a pre-trial motion to suppress. After the motion was denied, defendant stipulated to the record (regarding the evidence he previously sought to suppress) and waived his right to a jury trial. R.I.S.C. affirmed.

The primary issue considered by R.I.S.C. was whether defendant waived his right to appeal by stipulating to the record rather than proceeding to a trial.
Although is well settled that a defendant who enters a conditional plea of guilty or nolo contendere waives his or her right to appeal the hearing justice’s denial of any pretrial motions to suppress, “the adversarial nature of the proceedings below were sufficient to preserve [for appeal] the hearing justice’s denial of defendant’s pretrial motion to suppress.” Id. at 247.
State v. Silvia, 898 A.2d 707 (R.I. 2006). Trial court denied defendant’s motion in limine seeking to bar state from using defendant’s prior convictions as grounds for impeachment.

In order “to raise and preserve for review the claim of improper impeachment with a prior conviction, a defendant must testify.” Without a record of the impact of the allegedly erroneous impeachment ”[a]ny possible harm flowing from. permitting impeachment by a prior conviction is wholly speculative.” Id. at 719 (quoting Luce v. United States, 105 S. Ct. 460, 463-64 (1984).
State v. Andujar, 899 A.2d 1209 (R.I. 2006). Defendant’s objection to the state’s motion in limine, as well as his own motion in limine, was sufficient to preserve his argument that a past acquittal of sexual assault against the intended target of his alleged solicitation of murder should be admitted at trial, even though he did not renew the objection at trial.

“A ruling on a motion in limine, unless unequivocally definitive, will not alone suffice to preserve an evidentiary issue for appellate review; a proper objection on the record at the trial itself is necessary.” Id. at 1222.
Defendant’s pre-trial motion was preserved because it was unequivocally definitive. The trial justice’s in limine ruling stated: “No one. will offer any witness, evidence, statement or argument [that] defendant was acquitted [of those charges]. You can’t mention the outcome. That’s the court’s order. You can appeal me.” The court determined this to indicate finality not subject to reconsideration at trial. Id.

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