Motion for Appropriate Relief Procedures in North Carolina

Motions for Appropriate Relief are procedural tools defendants can use to challenge a criminal conviction in North Carolina. North Carolina imposes some strict deadlines for filing a Motion for Appropriate Relief, depending on the alleged error. Some motions need to be filed within 10 days of the entry of judgment, while others can be filed at any time. Understanding the procedural requirements behind Motions for Appropriate Relief will help defendants know their options.

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If you have recently been convicted of a crime in North Carolina, you may feel hopeless. You do still have legal options, however. You might be able to file a Motion for Appropriate Relief if the court that entered your judgment erred or violated your rights. The sooner you speak to an experienced appellate lawyer, the better.    Contact our North Carolina criminal appeals lawyer as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.

Motions Which Must be Filed with 10 Days of Judgment

The first step in filing a Motion for Appropriate Relief is determining how long you have to file the motion. The defendant must file a G.S. 15A-1414 claim within 10 days of the entry of judgment when the defendant is alleging "any error" that happened during the trial. Errors can include ineffective assistance of counsel, an erroneous failure to dismiss charges, erroneous jury instructions, or other errors in matters of law.

If you have been convicted of a crime in North Carolina, it is extremely important that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible to determine whether you need to file your motion within 10 days of your conviction. If you fail to do so, you could lose the opportunity to file a Motion for Appropriate Relief.

Motions That can be Filed at Any Time

Other Motions for Appropriate Relief can be filed at any time after the verdict, with the exception of capital cases that have their own time limits. G.S. 15A-1415 motions can only seek relief based on specific reasons outlined in the statute. Reasons include violations of the defendant's constitutional rights and ineffective assistance of counsel. Additionally, motions alleging that new evidence has come to light can be filed at any time, as long as the defendant files the motion in a reasonable time frame after discovering the new evidence.

Procedural Requirements With a Motion for Appropriate Relief

A Motion for Appropriate Relief needs to be in writing. However, the defendant's attorney can make an oral argument for the Motion for Appropriate Relief, but only within 10 days of the judgment. The Motion must also lay out the reasons the defendant is seeking relief through a Motion for Appropriate Relief.

The defendant must file the Motion in the district court that originally indicted the defendant with a North Carolina criminal charge. The court clerk will put the matter on the court calendar and the senior judge will assign the motion to a trial judge. Then, the trial judge will review the motion. The judge in charge of reviewing the motion can choose to take any of the following actions:

  1. Dismiss the motion if the judge finds it to be frivolous
  2. Appoint counsel
  3. Direct the opposing party to file an answer
  4. Schedule a hearing for the Motion of Appropriate Relief
Immediate Dismissal of the Motion for Appropriate Relief

A judge can dismiss the motion outright on legal or procedural grounds, such as the following:

  1. The motion is frivolous
  2. The defendant filed the motion in an improper form
  3. The issue already resolved in a prior Motion for Appropriate Relief
  4. The issue could have been raised in a previous Motion for Appropriate Relief
The Court Has a Duty to Make the Trial Documents Available

Judges will typically schedule a hearing related to the motion. Before the hearing, the court has a duty to make all relevant information available. The state is required to make all of the following information available:

  1. The complete law enforcement files regarding the arrest
  2. The complete files from prosecutorial agencies involved in the case's prosecution
  3. The complete files of the defendant's trial lawyer, when the defendant no longer has the same lawyer
The Defendant Has the Burden of Proof

The defendant who filed the Motion for Appropriate Relief has the burden of proof during the hearing. To succeed, the defendant must prove that the error happened by a preponderance of the evidence.