A motion to continue is a request by a party – in a criminal case, either the State represented in Raleigh by the Wake County District Attorney or the defense, usually represented by a criminal defense lawyer – for a judge to set a new court date in the matter.
Usually, but not always, a motion to continue is accompanied by a reason. For instance, the State may say, “Your honor, the State requests a continuance so that it can subpoena our witness.” Or the defendant may request a continuance so that he may find and hire an attorney.
Whether a the Court grants a continuance depends on several factors. Normally, the earlier in the case, the more likely a judge will grant a continuance and set a new court date. If the matter has been continued several times, the judge may be reluctant to continue it yet again.
Usually, if the judge is reluctant to grant a continuance, but decides to do so, he will mark it “last” for whichever side requested the continuance, or for both parties. That means that on the next court setting, both sides must be prepared to go to trial or resolve the matter in some fashion, usually either by dismissing the case (if the state is not prepared) or working out a plea deal (if the defendant has no better alternative).
Strategic uses of continuances can be effective as part of an overall defense strategy. Talk to your criminal defense attorney about this issue.