What is a Motion in Limine in a Criminal Trial in Texas?

motion in limine

A Motion in Limine is common in criminal trials, both at the state and federal level. It is a motion filed by either the prosecution or defense before a trial begins, asking that the opposing counsel and their witnesses not mention or elicit responses regarding matters that are inadmissible and prejudicial.

It is impossible to unring a bell, and it is impractical to expect a jury to unhear something. A Motion in Limine seeks to prevent the bell from ringing in the first place.

When Should You File a Motion in Limine?

In just about every criminal trial, a Motion in Limine will be filed by either the state or the defense. The purpose of the motion is to keep parties from referring to irrelevant, inadmissible, and prejudicial evidence which could include:

  • Evidence that a defendant invoked his right to remain silent after arrest
  • Mention of a polygraph test
  • A defendant’s prior criminal history
  • A victim’s criminal record
  • Information about a previous trial
  • Plea negotiations

Attorneys should file a Motion in Limine if there is inadmissible evidence they are concerned the other side could get into in front of the jury.

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What Happens When a Motion in Limine is Granted?

In order to get a Motion in Limine granted, the prosecutor or defense attorney must make a legal argument that certain evidence should be excluded for a specific reason. If the limine motion is granted, the opposing party cannot go into the topic without first approaching the judge for a ruling outside the jury’s presence. This includes alluding to it during opening or closing statements. The party who won the limine motion may bring up the excluded evidence but, if they do, the door is open for the other side to explore the issue in front of the jury.

What Happens if a Limine Motion is Denied?

If the limine motion is denied, the prosecution or defense can mention the topic or go into that particular line of questioning without approaching the bench. It’s fair game.

What Happens if Someone Violates a Motion in Limine?

Individuals who violate a Motion in Limine could be found in contempt of court, which is punishable by up to a $500 fine or six months in jail, or both. It could also result in a mistrial.


Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese