What is a Motion to Stay?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2020
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In law, a motion to stay is a request to temporarily stop a case or halt proceedings. These motion can be used in many different legal situations, from criminal trials to house foreclosures. Stays are typically granted or refused by the judge in charge of a legal case, or the governing legislative body. Although most motions to stay are requested by an attorney, a judge can choose to stay a case without a request in some circumstances.

There are many different ways a motion of stay can be used in court proceedings. Sometimes, if an action outside the case may affect the participants, a judge may order a stay until the outside situation resolves. For instance, a judge could grant a motion to stay a case until the results of DNA testing are completed or reviewed by an expert. Stays can also be granted if a case is being tried on two levels, such as in both state and federal court. In this instance, a judge may stay a trial to wait for the other trial's conclusion.

A motion to stay may be imposed if a participant in a case has not complied with a court order. If, for instance, a plaintiff has not paid court fees or put up required collateral, the case may be stayed until this issue is resolved as ordered. Custody cases can be stayed in some regions if appropriate documents have not been filed or verified.


If judgment has already been handed down, an attorney or participant can request a motion to stay execution. While this term is often used in reference to literal capital execution of a convicted criminal, it can also be used to stop another sentence, such as jail time, from being carried. Motions to stay capital execution are typically used in controversial death penalty cases in order to allow an condemned prisoner extra time to appeal the judgment.

A stay of execution prevents the judgment of a trial from being carried out. This means that in civil trials, if a judge orders one party to pay another a certain amount of money, this money does not have to be paid if a stay is in place. A stay may be used in civil cases to allow the paying party time to raise or file an appeal. In most cases, monetary judgments are automatically stayed for a set period of days or weeks to allow for financial organization.


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Post 2

I feel like I have seen this a lot in television and movies, and read it in books- in those stories, the defendant and/or prosecutor always uses them in order to have that extra few minutes to get the last saving witness or last damning evidence in order to win the protagonist's case. I imagine it is not usually so dramatic in real life, though.

Post 1

This particular legal maneuver has been in the news a lot lately because so many people have filed a motion to stay foreclosure. It is a powerful tool because it acts like a last line of defense before any legal penalty goes into action. A motion to stay gives people one last opportunity to get their affairs in order or try to overturn a judgment. It is an important check on the powers of the courts.

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