What is a Motion for Appropriate Relief in North Carolina?

A motion for appropriate relief (“MAR”) is a motion to correct any errors that occurred before, during, or after a criminal trial or proceeding. It is important to note that an MAR is not an appeal. An appeal is a legal proceeding whereby a higher court reviews the lower court’s decision for an abuse of discretion or for errors of law or legal procedure. A motion for appropriate relief, whether made before or after the entry of judgment, is a motion in the original cause and not a new proceeding. While an appellate court is limited in deciding on only questions of law, a MAR may allege both legal and factual errors.

Filing a motion for appropriate relief may allow criminal defendants to bring errors to the attention of the trial judge, who can then correct them instantly. This process is far simpler, immediate, and less expensive than filing an appeal.

The Purpose of a Motion for Appropriate Relief

The purpose of a MAR is to correct any errors that occurred during the trial and can address any errors related to the entry of a guilty plea by the court. Many defendants submit motions for appropriate relief in order to avoid appealing a conviction. One of the main objectives of this procedure is to eliminate the formal process of filing motions at the end of a trial and to move more directly to the problem and its solution, whether legal and/or factual error, at any point either before, during or after trial.

When the state and the defendant consent to the motion for appropriate relief, the judge can grant the requested relief without making a decision. However, in most cases, the state will challenge the motion and request a dismissal. Should the judge schedule a hearing, the state will present evidence demonstrating that the judge should not grant the motion.

Filing a Motion for Appropriate Relief

A motion for appropriate relief must be made in writing unless it is made in open court, before the judge who presided at trial, before the end of the session is made in superior court, and within 10 days after entry of judgment.

The MAR must state the grounds for the motion, set forth the relief sought, and be timely filed. The defendant must provide service of the motion to the District Attorney in every case. If the defendant was convicted of a capital crime, he or she must also serve the Attorney General. This is required to ensure that the state is put on notice of the motion.

Two Types of Motions for Appropriate Relief

The motion for appropriate relief statute offers defendants two different types of motions for appropriate relief. The first type of motion is a G.S. 15A-1414 MAR. After filing this type of motion, the judge will investigate the alleged errors and correct errors that actually took place. Judges have the authority to issue any type of necessary relief, including overturning the conviction. However, judges will only do this when they find that the error happened, and the error precluded the defendant from receiving a fair trial.

Defendants also have the option of filing a G.S.15A-1415 motion for appropriate relief. In this type of motion, the defendant alleges that their constitutional rights have been violated. Defendants can file this type of motion in the district court that convicted them of the crime, or they can file the motion in appellate court if they have already filed an appeal. G.S. 15A-1415 motions must allege that one of the following errors took place:

  • The trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction
  • The conviction violated either the North Carolina Constitution or the U.S. Constitution
  • The indictment or other criminal charging document contains a fatal flaw
  • The defendant did not voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently enter into a plea of guilty
  • The defendant did not voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently waive your right to have your defense counsel represent you
The Types of Relief Available for Motions for Appropriate Relief

North Carolina courts have extensive discretion when it comes to the types of relief the court can grant for a motion for appropriate relief. The NC criminal code explains the types of relief a defendant can request and receive. A judge can rule to vacate the defendant’s conviction or dismiss the criminal charges when it becomes necessary. Should the court dismiss the charges against the defendant in addition to granting the motion for appropriate relief, the state must refrain from re-trying the defendant for the same crime. The defendant must ask the court to dismiss criminal charges in the written MAR. The Court will rarely grant more relief than requested by the defendant. It is imperative to state the full relief the defendant seeks in the motion.

Hiring an Experienced Lawyer for Your Motion for Appropriate Relief

If you were convicted of crime in the North Carolina court system and believe that you did not receive a fair and impartial trial, contact one of our experienced attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Call us at (704) 370-2828 or fill out our contact form online. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville, and Monroe.