Criminal Trial Continuances

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What is a Continuance in a Criminal Trial?

In a criminal trial, a formal delay is known as a “continuance”.  A continuance can be requested by both the defense and the prosecution, either before or during trial. 

Continuance may be obtained for several different reasons, such as when a witness is missing, or if a key figure in the case has become ill.  The laws governing continuances can vary by jurisdictions.  However, as a general rule, continuances cannot be issued for trivial or insignificant purposes. 

While they are not always granted automatically, continuances are a key element in many criminal trials.  Continuances provide both parties with additional time to resolve important issues, and can help ensure the constitutional rights of criminal defendants.  

How is a Continuance Obtained?

In order to obtain a continuance, the party seeking the delay must file a “motion for a continuance”.  This is a written request to the court seeking a delay or suspension of the trial.  The party requesting the continuance must state clearly state why a delay is necessary in the written motion.

A motion for continuance can also be filed at the defendant’s pre-trial hearing, even before trial begins.  This may be necessary if the parties anticipate a delay in the future.   

What are Some Valid Reasons for a Continuance?

Continuances or delays in a criminal trial can be issued for several reasons, such as:

There may be several other situations that might require a continuance during the criminal trial.  Again, the party seeking the continuance should clearly state their reasons for the continuance when they file the written motion with the court. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Continuance in a Criminal Trial?

As in all criminal cases, a defendant has a right to the assistance and representation of a lawyer.  If you need assistance in obtaining a continuance or delay in a criminal trial, it is best to speak with an experienced criminal attorney. Your attorney will be familiar with the court rules and regulations in your jurisdiction. 

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Last Modified: 10-14-2011 04:24 PM PDT

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