What Is A Motion In Limine?
A motion in limine is a motion that you make before the start of your trial that excludes certain evidence from ever being introduced during the trial.
For example, in order to be qualified to testify as an expert in a certain field you must satisfy certain parameters. If the expert does not satisfy those parameters you can file a motion to exclude all of that experts testimony. If the motion is granted then the other side cannot even attempt to bring the expert forward.
This is obviously a very powerful tool, but it is a procedural tool, not a substantive tool. Motions in limine are not really different from objecting at trial. Using the expert scenario again, if the expert has not qualified to provide testimony in the relevant areas, you can object to the expert’s testimony during trial. In theory, you will receive the same ruling as you would have if you filed the motion in limine.
However, if you wait until trial to object to the expert’s testimony you have not given the judge adequate time to understand the objection and the judge may not take to the time to find that the objection is proper. So, while in a perfect system the timing of the objection shouldn’t matter, in reality it often does.
Motions in limine can also have serious drawbacks. If you bring up an issue to the judge before trial begins and they don’t follow your reasoning, they may be prone to dismiss the same objection at trial when the objectionable problem materializes where if that was the first time you brought up the objection, they may have granted your objection.
Overall motions in limine are designed to limit the scope of the trial so no excess evidence is brought in to confuse the triar of fact and so ground rules are laid for the opposing attorneys.
And while bringing a motion in limine that is ultimately denied can lead to unfortunate consequences during trial, it is almost always best to brief the judge in advance of the issues—even if they don’t grant your motion before trial—so that they are better equipped to understand your same objection later.