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Prior to jury trial a motion in limine is filed. The motion is a preliminary ruling by a judge whether certain evidence should be entered.

Recently I was prepping a case for jury trial in St. Clair county where Judge Zina Cruse was presiding.  We filed our routine paperwork including a motion in limine.  The State filed a couple motions in limine.  We argued them before the court a few weeks before trial was scheduled to begin.  The judge ruled against my introduction of medical evidence supporting her contention that she had legitimately applied for time off from work due to her grandson's illness.  I believe the ruling was against established law which allows a defendant to provide a meaningful defense.  She also ruled against my client's attempt to introduce medical treatment from a different source.  Again, that evidence would establish my client's off-work time was legitimate. 

Normally a motion in limine is a preliminary ruling that must be revisted with the court at a time when that evidence is attempted to be introduced.  If a party does not attempt to introduce said evidence he/she waives the right to pursue the barring of that evidence on appeal. 

In the trial in chief I intended on introducing the grandson's medical note.   I discussed with the State my intention prior to trial beginning that date.  They indicated they had no objection.  However, when I introduced the evidence the judge got extremely upset and told me I was going to be held in contempt if I referred to any barred evidence from that point forward.  She told me "it was a slap in her face" that I introduced the evidence.  Now keep in mind that the State never objected to the introduction.  It really isn't the court's duty to make objections for the State.  And the motion in limine is only a preliminary ruling.  I have dealt with this issue many times at trial and on appeal and have never had a court act in this manner towards me. 

Typical motions in limine are filed by the defense to bar prior criminal convictions, non-disclosed evidence, etc.  The State will attempt to bar persuasive evidence they feel may be beneficial to the defendant.  Other times there are statutes that disallow certain types of evidence.  Sex offenses have quite a few statutes ("rape shield). 

Some courts don't like "blanket" motions in limine.  That is a motion the State routinely files listing multiple issues that really may not be relevant to the case at trial.  I suggest that the attorneys specifically tailor their motion to contain only very specific evidence they seek to bar.  That way the court knows you are only raising relevant issues and are not simply wasting their time. 

Brian L. Polinske
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