§9 Judgment of Acquittal or Arrest of Judgment

CRIMINAL DEFENDANT’S HANDBOOK – Order Now!

Within seven days after the jury is discharged, defense counsel may make or renew a “Motion for Judgment of Acquittal” or move for an arrest of judgment. “The seven-day time limit is jurisdictional.” Carlisle v. United States, 517 U.S. 416, 134 L.Ed.2d 613, 116 S.Ct. 1460 (1996)(construing Fed.R.Crim.P. 29).

The post-trial MJOA seeks review of the sufficiency of the evidence while a motion for arrest of judgment alleges the indictment or information does not charge an offense or that the court lacked jurisdiction. The government may seek appellate review of a successful MJOA if the motion is granted after a jury returns a guilty verdict. The “Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (MJOA)” is pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 29 while the “Motion for Arrest of Judgment (MAJ)” is pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 34.

If the defendant fails to move for a judgment of acquittal, either at the close of the government’s case or at the close of all evidence, the reviewing court will not review the sufficiency of the evidence except to avoid a manifest miscarriage of justice, which exists only if it appears that the record is devoid of evidence pointing to guilt. Palos v. United States, 416 F.2d 438 (5th Cir. 1969).

Without the defendant’s consent, it is error for the trial judge to defer ruling on a motion to acquit made at the close of the government’s case. The application of any other rule would penalize a defendant for a trial court’s refusal to issue a ruling at the time it is clearly required. A defendant may agree to deferral of a ruling on the motion either expressly or by failing to object.

A demand for an immediate ruling is treated as if the court had denied the motion. United States v. Dale, 991 F.2d 819 (D.C. Cir. 1993).

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