After a criminal conviction, you know you can file an appeal. But you don’t have to wait to file an appeal in every case. Most of the time, you can also file a motion for a new trial in the court where your criminal trial happened. A motion for a new trial asks the court to throw out your conviction and give you a new trial. As you might expect, courts don’t grant these motions very often. But it is an option you have.
What is a motion for a new trial in a criminal case?
A motion for a new trial asks a court to throw out a verdict and do a second trial. You can file a motion for a new trial in a civil or criminal case. In a criminal case, you move for a new trial after a conviction. Courts do not grant motions for new trials very often. When they do, they do so because they determine that “the interest of justice so requires.” This is a tough standard to meet.
When do judges grant motions for a new trial?
Usually, courts only grant motions for a new trial if there were legal mistakes during your trial. For example, if a judge refused to let the jury consider the evidence it should have, the court could order a new trial. The opposite is also true. If the judge let the jury consider the evidence it shouldn’t have, the court could order a new trial, too.
Motions for new trials go to the same judge that presided over your trial. As a result, it’s unusual for judges to grant motions for new trials for this reason. The only time a judge might do so is if they think an appeals court might overrule them. But, the possibility of an appeals court overruling them is usually low. This is because appeals courts give judges lots of leeway on decisions like these.
They may also grant a motion for a new trial if you have evidence that proves your innocence. In either case, you have to show that you did not get a fair trial. In most cases, these motions for new trials rely on newly discovered evidence. Newly discovered evidence is evidence that the defense did not have during trial. The catch is that the evidence must also not have been available during that trial. Otherwise, the judge will blame you for not finding it.
When do you have to file a motion for a new trial?
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 controls motions for new trials in federal court. It states that “[u]pon the defendant’s motion, the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires.”
It also explains the “Time to File.” “Any motion for a new trial grounded on newly discovered evidence must be filed within 3 years after the verdict or finding of guilty.” The only exception is “[i]f an appeal is pending[.]” In that circumstance, the court can’t rule on the motion until the appeals court sends the case back. For any other motion for a new trial, the motion “must be filed within 14 days after the verdict or finding of guilty.”
If a jury or judge finds you guilty of a crime, you can appeal. But you can also file a motion for a new trial. These motions can focus on several different arguments. Unfortunately, judges don’t grant them very often. Unless they focus on newly discovered evidence, you must file the motion within 14 days after the guilty verdict.