Motion For Appropriate Relief (MAR)

A Motion for Appropriate Relief, or “MAR” is a motion made to correct errors made during a criminal trial or proceeding. MAR’s are created by North Carolina Statute § 15A-1420 and allow a convicted criminal to challenge the legitimacy of his or her conviction. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our experienced attorneys understand that courts are not infallible—like anyone, a judge can make a mistake. If you believe a court made an incorrect decision that landed you or a loved one in jail, do not hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC to discuss your options. Timing is critical to an MAR, so call today.

What is an MAR?

A Motion for Appropriate (MAR) is a statutory vehicle for challenging a problematic conviction. Although it is similar to an appeal, an MAR also allows for an evidentiary hearing if needed. Thus, a judge can review the evidence presented at the original trial or even consider evidence newly discovered, to review whether or not the conviction should stand. Once an MAR is filed, a judge has full discretion whether or not to hear the motion.

An MAR may be granted for a number of reasons, but the following are most common:

  • The defendant did not fully understand the ramifications of a guilty plea;
  • The court misapplied the relevant law or applied the incorrect law;
  • The evidence simply could not support the jury’s finding;
  • New evidence or technology to analyze the evidence has become available;
  • The defense attorney was ineffective in representing the defendant; or
  • A new law has developed which retroactively affects the conviction.

While an MAR is most often filed by a convicted individual, both the judge and the prosecution can also file an MAR.

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

An MAR is usually filed in writing in the court where the defendant was convicted. It cannot be filed until after a verdict is rendered in the underlying case. The moving party must show that they have reviewed the trial transcript, identified a legal basis for the MAR, and that the motion is being made in good faith. If these requirements are highly burdensome, a judge may grand an extension of time to file a MAR for “good cause”.

After taking care of these preliminaries, the defense then files the MAR with the superior court of the district where the conviction took place. If it is a noncapital case, the defense must serve the District Attorney with notice of the filing; for capital cases, the District Attorney and Attorney General must be given notice.

At this point, the motion will go before a judge who will review the claim and determine whether or not a hearing is necessary. A judge may decide that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to resolve outstanding factual issues. This procedure often begins with a conference between all parties to discuss the questions of fact. At the evidentiary hearing, the moving party has to prove every necessary fact by a preponderance of the evidence.

Finally, if a judge, considering the facts and the relevant legal inquiries, decides that the moving party was prejudiced in his or her conviction, the judge may provide appropriate relief. If the individual was denied a proper, fair hearing on the merits of the conviction, this may result in a reversal of the underlying conviction.

Should I File an MAR?

If you believe you or a loved one were convicted by unfair or illegitimate means, don’t hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today. Our passionate and experienced attorneys will develop a powerful claim to fight for the vindication of your rights.

For more information on Motions for Appropriate Relief, see the General Assembly’s webpage containing the MAR Statute.