motion for a new trial | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

A motion for a new trial is a legal request made to a court after a trial has been completed but before a judgment has been entered.


In the world of criminal justice, a motion is a request made to a judge to make a decision on a particular matter. When a defendant or their lawyer makes a “Motion for a New Trial,” they’re basically asking the judge to reconsider the case. This occurs when they believe the first trial was flawed or unfair in some way.

When is a Motion for a New Trial Used?

A Motion for a New Trial is typically used after a trial has concluded but before the judge has passed sentence. The defendant or their lawyer might decide that a new trial is necessary due to several reasons. Some examples are legal mistakes during the trial, newly discovered evidence, jury misconduct, or an unjust verdict.

Above all, it’s important to note that the timing for this motion is crucial. It must be made within a specific time period after the verdict, usually within a few weeks.

How Does a Motion for a New Trial Work?

When a Motion for a New Trial is made, the judge must review the reasons provided by the defendant or their attorney. They then decide whether these reasons are strong enough to warrant a new trial. The judge has to weigh the presented issues against the concept of justice and fairness.

After that, if the judge grants the motion, a new trial is scheduled. The new trial isn’t just a repeat of the first one; it’s an entirely new trial, starting from scratch. In this case, the previous verdict no longer holds.

Reasons for a Motion for a New Trial

Let’s explore some reasons why a Motion for a New Trial might be made.

  1. Legal Mistakes: If errors were made during the trial process, such as incorrect instructions given to the jury, these mistakes might warrant a new trial.
  2. Newly Discovered Evidence: If new evidence surfaces after the trial has ended, a new trial might be necessary to consider this evidence.
  3. Jury Misconduct: If there’s proof that the jury acted inappropriately, like if they ignored the judge’s instructions or if a juror was biased, then a new trial might be in order.
  4. Unjust Verdict: If the defendant believes the verdict is not supported by the evidence, they can ask for a new trial.


All in all, a Motion for a New Trial is a significant part of the criminal justice system. It provides a check against mistakes and misconduct, ensuring that trials are fair and just. Above all, it’s a reminder that in our criminal justice system, fairness is paramount, and everyone has the right to a fair trial.

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Last Modified: 06/27/2023


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