A motion for a new trial is a formal legal request that asks a judge to set aside a decision in a case so that a new trial can be held. This type of legal motion is filed only in cases in which people feel that gross procedural or legal errors compromised the trial to the point that the outcome cannot be viewed as valid. It is unusual for a judge to grant this motion, and when a judge does so, it indicates that the original trial was so flawed that the outcome was unjust.
The rules about when people may file a motion for a new trial vary. As a general rule, the motion must be filed within seven to 30 days of the conclusion of a trial. This gives legal experts time to review a trial to determine whether or not it was conducted properly, but does not set up such an open-ended deadline that a motion can be filed months or years later. The general idea is that if people identify profound errors with a trial, they should be able to do so quickly.
When the motion is filed, an attorney usually goes before the judge who heard the case in the first place. The lawyer provides supporting evidence to show that there were problems with the trial that compromise the outcome. Known as key errors, such problems are significant in nature and had the effect of skewing the trial result. Some things which might lead a judge to grant a new trial include violations of the rules of evidence, jury tampering, and not following courtroom procedure.
While weighing the legal motion, a judge will consider the facts provided by the lawyer who made the motion to determine whether or not they are compelling enough. The judge may agree, for example, that errors were made, but believe that the errors did not functionally alter the outcome of the trial and that they were minor in nature. For instance, if someone failed to word a statement properly when introducing evidence, this is an error, but it might not be a key error.
If a motion for a new trial is denied, this is not the end of the road. The attorney can write an appeal and bring it to an appellate court. These higher courts have the ability to review lower court proceedings. The appellate court may agree that the trial was categorically flawed and order the lower court to retry the matter.