Helping Clients Protect Their Future and Their Liberty

Why a motion for severance may be needed to get a fair trial

On Behalf of | Sep 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense

partial view of blurred judge in robe holding gavel in court

If you’re arrested for allegedly committing a crime with one or more other people, you may be looking at being tried along with those other defendants in a joint trial – and that could increase your chances of conviction. That’s why it’s important to understand the legal concept of severance.

State laws around severance vary. However, it basically means severing your case from someone else’s and being tried on your own. Unfortunately, even if you don’t know your co-defendant(s) well (or at all) or they have lengthy criminal records and you don’t, that doesn’t necessarily give you legal grounds for severance.

What is required for a judge to grant a motion to sever?

Texas law and appeals court decisions in the state paint a clearer picture of when a defendant has grounds for severance or when they can have a conviction overturned on appeal because it should have been severed. It’s important to understand that severance isn’t a right. In fact, in many cases, trial judges deny requests for severance. 

A person who presents a motion to sever their case by claiming that prejudice against another defendant will affect their own ability to get a fair trial will need to make a solid case backed up by evidence for that. For example, if one defendant has a prior conviction that’s admissible as evidence in this case, that’s likely grounds for severance.

Don’t assume anything, though. A motion for severance typically needs to be made before the trial begins unless evidence is presented during the trial that wasn’t previously known. If you have one or more co-defendants whom you believe will harm your chances of a fair trial, it’s crucial to have experienced legal guidance to give you the best chance of a successful motion to sever.