Motion for Appropriate Relief

A motion for appropriate relief (or “MAR”) is a motion to correct a purported error in the legal proceedings, and asks the court for relief such as vacating a conviction or ordering a new trial. MAR’s are created by North Carolina Statute § 15A-1420 and allow a convicted criminal to challenge the legitimacy of his or her conviction.  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.

There are two types of MAR’s:

Filed Within 10 Days of Judgment

The defendant may file an MAR within 10 days of entry of judgment seeking relief for “any error” that occurred during the trial.

Alleged errors might include

  • ineffective assistance of counsel,
  • the court’s erroneous failure to dismiss charges,
  • erroneous jury instructions,
  • erroneous rulings on other matters of law,
  • a sentence not supported by evidence, or
  • any other cause which prevented the defendant from receiving a fair and impartial trial.

MARs filed under this statute may be acted upon by the trial court even if a notice of appeal has already been given. See G.S. 15A-1414(c).

Filed at Any Time
The Defendant may file an MAR at any time after verdict (except in capital cases, which do have an outer time limit), but may only seek relief based on the specific grounds enumerated by the statute, which include:

  •  lack of jurisdiction of the trial court,
  • a significant change in the law,
  • the sentence imposed was unauthorized,
  • the conviction was in violation of the constitution,
  • the acts charged did not constitute a violation of a criminal law, and
  • other similar grounds (including ineffective assistance of counsel).

The Defendant may also file an MAR under this statute on the grounds that newly discovered evidence entitles him or her to some relief, as long as the motion is filed within a reasonable time after the discovery of the evidence.

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