Friday Q&A: What is a motion to continue?

Welcome to our new weekly series, Friday Q&A. Each week our attorneys will respond to a question selected from the many received by direct and online submission. Have a question you want answered or topic you want to hear more about? Submit your suggestions to us by tweeting @TLOBJ or sending a message to our Facebook Page.

QUESTION: My first court date for my shoplifting charge is coming up. When I checked the court docket online today, there was a new post that said “state motion for continuance.” What does that mean?

ANSWER: A motion for continuance is a request by a party to a case to reschedule a currently set court date. In the criminal context, a court date is an order to appear at a particular date and time (and place!) that is enforceable with the power of law.

That means if you do not come to court for a scheduled court date, a warrant could be issued for your arrest in order to force you to come to court.

The Defendant or the State can request a continuance for a variety of reasons, including: the unavailability of an important witness like the arresting officer or an examining nurse; because of a scheduling conflict for the attorney or the client who is asking for the change; or because the parties are still exchanging discovery or working to resolve the case without the use of a jury trial.

Typically, the party requesting the continuance is responsible for showing a good reason for the request and for providing alternative dates for the court to reschedule the date to.

The timing of a motion to continue is dependent on the circumstances of the case; typically, the motion is made as soon as the requesting attorney becomes aware of the need for it, whether that is fourteen (14) days before the court date, or the morning of the court date.