Motion in limine
In U.S. law, a motion in limine (Latin: "at the start", literally, "on the threshold") (Latin pronunciation: [ɪn ˈliːmɪˌne]) is a motion, (or a request to a judge) used in both civil and criminal proceedings. It can be used at both the state and federal levels.
It is frequently used at pre-trial hearings or during trial to request that the judge rule that certain testimony be excluded. The motion is always discussed outside the presence of the jury and is always decided by a judge.
The reasons for the motions are wide and varied, but probably the most frequent use of the motion in limine in a criminal trial is to shield the jury from information concerning the defendant that could possibly be unfairly prejudicial to the defendant if heard at trial. Other reasons arise under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to comply with discovery.
Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004) defines "motion in limine" as "a pretrial request that certain inadmissible evidence not be referred to or offered at trial." A motion in limine is used to get a ruling to allow for the inclusion of evidence, not only to get a ruling as to whether or not evidence will be precluded from trial. They are made "preliminary", and it is presented for consideration of the judge (or arbitrator or hearing officer) to be decided without the merits being reached first.:791
Examples of motions in limine would be that the attorney for the defendant may ask the judge to refuse to admit into evidence any personal information, or medical, criminal or financial records, using the legal grounds that these records are irrelevant, immaterial, unreliable, or unduly prejudicial, and/or that their probative value is outweighed by the prejudicial result to the defendant, or that the admittance of such information or evidence would otherwise violate one of the court's rules of evidence. A party proffering certain evidence can also ask for the admission of certain information or evidence via a motion in limine.
If the motion in limine to exclude evidence is granted, then the excluded records are prohibited from being presented without specific approval from the judge at the time the party wants to offer the evidence. A reference to such "highly prejudicial" evidence contrary to the tribunal's order is a ground for a mistrial.:1033