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In Massachusetts, pretrial motions for criminal cases in district court are regulated by

While there are slight variations among these sources, each aims to make pretrial proceedings more efficient and fair.


Only pretrial motions the subject matter of which could not be agreed upon at the pretrial conference shall be filed with the court.[1]

To accomplish the goal of limiting excess filings, the rules require prosecutors to give the defendant’s attorney all evidence, both inculpatory and exculpatory, prior to the pretrial conference. 

Such evidence includes but is not limited to:

(i) Any written or recorded statements, and the substance of any oral statements, made by the defendant or a co-defendant.

(ii) The grand jury minutes, and the written or recorded statements of a person who has testified before a grand jury.

(iii) Any facts of an exculpatory nature.

(iv) The names, addresses, and dates of birth of the Commonwealth’s prospective witnesses other than law enforcement witnesses. The Commonwealth shall also provide this information to the Probation Department.

(v) The names and business addresses of prospective law enforcement witnesses.

(vi) Intended expert opinion evidence, other than evidence that pertains to the defendant’s criminal responsibility and is subject to subdivision (b)(2). Such discovery shall include the identity, current curriculum vitae, and list of publications of each intended expert witness, and all reports prepared by the expert that pertain to the case.

(vii) Material and relevant police reports, photographs, tangible objects, all intended exhibits, reports of physical examinations of any person or of scientific tests or experiments, and statements of persons the party intends to call as witnesses.

(viii) A summary of identification procedures, and all statements made in the presence of or by an identifying witness that are relevant to the issue of identity or to the fairness or accuracy of the identification procedures.

(ix) Disclosure of all promises, rewards or inducements made to witnesses the party intends to present at trial.[2]

At arraignment, the district court judge will order the prosecution to comply with these mandatory discovery rules prior to the pretrial conference.

Despite these provisions, if the prosecution and the defense still cannot agree on pretrial matters, motions may be submitted to the court at any time up to the pretrial hearing.

A defendant may file a motion after the pretrial hearing only if

the discovery sought could not reasonably have been requested or obtained prior to the conclusion of the pretrial hearing…or…other good cause exists to warrant consideration of the motion.[3]

If a motion is filed after the pretrial hearing, it should be accompanied with an affidavit stating why the motion is being filed late.

[1] Mass. R. Crim. P. 13(d).

[2] Mass. R. Crim. P. 14 (a)(1)(A)(i)-(ix).

[3] Mass. R. Crim. P. 13(d)(1); see also Dist/Mun. Cts. R. Crim. P. 4(b)