Motions in Limine and Exclusion of Evidence

A motion in limine (i.e., at the threshold) is a request to a Court to exclude certain evidence from being introduced at trial. It is a preliminary expression of the court’s opinion as to the admissibility of evidence. Brown v. Hamid, 856 S.W.2d 51, 55 (Mo. 1993). Practically, it further serves the purpose of notifying other parties and the court of potentially objectionable evidence. Johnson v. State, 189 S.W.3d 640, 646 (Mo. Ct. App. 2006). The court’s ruling on the request to exclude evidence before trial is interlocutory and subject to change during the course of trial. State v. Purlee, 839 S.W.2d 584, 592 (Mo. 1992). For that reason, there will often be objections or other legal arguments regarding the disputed evidence during the actual trial because Missouri allows a trial judge to reconsider prior rulings in the context of how it is presented. State v. Mickle, 164 S.W.3d 33, 35 (Mo. Ct. App. 2005).
More often than not, motions in limine are invoked when the case is subject to a jury trial. The idea there is that some evidence may be so unfairly prejudicial or legally irrelevant that the mere fact of it being brought up at trial would be harmful. With judge-tried cases, the law typically presumes that a Judge will be able to properly weigh legally relevant or irrelevant evidence and reach a conclusion with a proper evidentiary basis.
Motions in limine is really a lawyer topic. It is not going to interest clients or the general public. However, cases are decided on the facts and the law. It is, therefore, important to be candid with your attorney and communicate all facts ahead of time, even those you may deem to be impertinent or are embarrassed to discuss. If possible, it may be necessary to exclude those items from trial. The worst thing that can happen is to say nothing and the attorney hears about it for the first time immediately before trial or at trial.
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