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Motions for Appropriate Relief

As a criminal defendant, you have the right to a fair trial. However, trial judges and juries are human, and they can make mistakes. When the trial court makes an error that results in your conviction, you may be entitled to seek relief from your conviction through a motion for appropriate relief. These motions are made following verdict or judgment to challenge the legality or legitimacy of the verdict or judgment and to correct errors made by the trial court during your criminal proceedings

You can increase the chances of a successful motion for appropriate relief with dedicated, experienced legal representation on your side. Contact the Raleigh criminal defense attorneys of Kurtz & Blum today to learn more about how our firm can help you file a motion for appropriate relief. Call us at (919) 429-8532.

What Is a Motion for Appropriate Relief?

A motion for appropriate relief, or MAR, is a motion made following a judgment in a criminal trial that seeks to correct any errors that occurred during the criminal proceedings, including errors relating to the defendant’s entry of a guilty plea. 

MARs come in two forms:

  • The first type of MAR is filed within 10 days of the entry of judgment. This type of MAR is used to correct an error made by the trial court. The purpose behind filing this type of MAR is to enable the trial judge to quickly fix an issue brought to the trial court’s attention so that the parties can avoid the time and expense of an appeal. 
  • The second type of MAR can be filed at any point after the entry of judgment. This type is typically used to correct more significant legal issues or errors, such as lack of jurisdiction, violation of constitutional rights, or critical defects in the indictment or charging document.

Reasons a MAR May Be Granted

Trial courts may grant a MAR for any number of reasons, including:

  • The defendant was not appropriately advised as to the consequences of a guilty plea.
  • The court misapplied the law, or applied the incorrect law.
  • The evidence could not reasonably support the jury’s verdict.
  • New evidence of innocence not available during the proceedings has come to light.
  • A new retroactively effective law has been announced that affects the legality of the proceedings or conviction.
  • Defense counsel provided ineffective assistance.

What Is the Process of Filing a Motion for Appropriate Relief?

A MAR must be filed in the trial court where the defendant was convicted. A MAR cannot be filed until after the jury (or the judge sitting as factfinder) renders a verdict in the case. In a MAR, the defendant (or other moving party) must certify that he or she has reviewed the trial transcript, identified a legal basis for a MAR, and that the motion is being made in good faith. A MAR must also be served on the district attorney responsible for the prosecution, and the attorney general in certain cases. 

The trial judge will then conduct a preliminary review of the MAR to determine whether a hearing is needed to rule on the motion. A trial judge may order an evidentiary hearing if the judge believes there are outstanding factual issues raised by the MAR. If the trial court orders a hearing, the parties will discuss and agree upon the outstanding issues of fact, then the moving party during the hearing must prove each of those facts by a preponderance of the evidence. 

After reviewing the motion or after the hearing, the trial court can rule on a MAR in any way the court sees fit, based on the evidence. For example, a trial court can decide to vacate a conviction and permit the state to retry the defendant, or the trial court may even order the charges to be dismissed. However, the trial court will almost never order relief that has not been asked for by the moving party, so a defendant who files a MAR should ask to vacate the conviction, in addition to dismissing the charges and expunging the criminal record, if there is a legal basis to do so.

Should I File a MAR?

You should file a MAR if you and your attorney can identify any error made during the criminal process, such as if the trial court improperly admitted evidence, if you received ineffective assistance of counsel, if the trial court lacked jurisdiction, if the evidence could not reasonably support your conviction, if you have uncovered newly discovered evidence, or if there is a new law that affects the legality of the criminal proceedings or your conviction. 

If you can identify a potential error made by the trial court, you should file a MAR to give the trial court the opportunity to correct the error. Depending on the circumstances in your case, if you fail to raise the issue before the trial court and give the trial judge the opportunity to correct the error, and then try to raise an appeal on that issue, the appellate court may rule that you have waived the issue by failing to file a MAR.

How Can an Attorney Help You?

A knowledgeable defense attorney from our firm can help you with the MAR process by:

  • Reviewing the trial court transcripts to identify potential errors made by the trial court
  • Researching the law to develop your legal arguments in favor of the MAR or to identify changes in the controlling authority or most appropriate authority for the relief sought
  • Continuing investigation efforts to uncover new evidence of innocence
  • Drafting the motion on your behalf
  • Advocating on your behalf if the trial court orders an evidentiary hearing on your motion

A MAR should not be used to express your disagreement with the trial court’s decisions. Instead, you must have a good faith basis to believe that the trial court committed a legal error. An attorney can help you identify those trial court decisions where there may be a legal basis to argue that the court made an error.

Talk to a Motion for Appropriate Relief Lawyer Now

If you or a loved one has been convicted of a crime and you believe that the trial court committed errors before, during, or after your trial, you may be entitled to seek relief from your conviction and even from your criminal prosecution through a motion for appropriate relief. Contact Kurtz & Blum to schedule a consultation with a North Carolina motion for appropriate relief lawyer to discuss the details of your case and to learn more about your rights and options. Call (919) 429-8532.

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