Rule 33. New Trial
(a) Defendant's Motion. Upon the defendant's motion, the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires. If the case was tried without a jury, the court may take additional testimony and enter a new judgment.
(b) Time to File.
(1) Newly Discovered Evidence. Any motion for a new trial grounded on newly discovered evidence must be filed within 3 years after the verdict or finding of guilty. If an appeal is pending, the court may not grant a motion for a new trial until the appellate court remands the case.
(2) Other Grounds. Any motion for a new trial grounded on any reason other than newly discovered evidence must be filed within 14 days after the verdict or finding of guilty.
(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; Mar. 9, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 24, 1998, eff. Dec. 1, 1998; Apr. 29, 2002, eff. Dec. 1, 2002; Apr. 25, 2005, eff. Dec. 1, 2005; Mar. 26, 2009, eff. Dec. 1, 2009.)
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1944
This rule enlarges the time limit for motions for new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence, from 60 days to two years; and for motions for new trial on other grounds from three to five days. Otherwise, it substantially continues existing practice. See Rule II of the Criminal Appeals Rules of 1933, 292 U.S. 661. Cf. Rule 59(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [28 U.S.C., Appendix].
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1966 Amendment
The amendments to the first two sentences make it clear that a judge has no power to order a new trial on his own motion, that he can act only in response to a motion timely made by a defendant. Problems of double jeopardy arise when the court acts on its own motion. See United States v. Smith, 331 U.S. 469 (1947). These amendments do not, of course, change the power which the court has in certain circumstances, prior to verdict or finding of guilty, to declare a mistrial and order a new trial on its own motion. See e.g., Gori v. United States, 367 U.S. 364 (1961); Downum v. United States, 372 U.S. 734 (1963); United States v. Tateo, 377 U.S. 463 (1964). The amendment to the last sentence changes the time in which the motion may be made to 7 days. See the Advisory Committee's Note to Rule 29.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment
The amendments are technical. No substantive change is intended.
Committee Notes on Rules—1998 Amendment
As currently written, the time for filing a motion for new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence runs from the “final judgment.” The courts, in interpreting that language, have uniformly concluded that that language refers to the action of the Court of Appeals. See, e.g., United States v. Reyes, 49 F.3d 63, 66 (2d Cir. 1995)(citing cases). It is less clear whether that action is the appellate court's judgment or the issuance of its mandate. In Reyes, the court concluded that it was the latter event. In either case, it is clear that the present approach of using the appellate court's final judgment as the triggering event can cause great disparity in the amount of time available to a defendant to file timely a motion for new trial. This would be especially true if, as noted by the Court in Reyes, supra at 67, an appellate court stayed its mandate pending review by the Supreme Court. See also Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390, 410 –412 (1993) (noting divergent treatment by States of time for filing motions for new trial).
It is the intent of the Committee to remove that element of inconsistency by using the trial court's verdict or finding of guilty as the triggering event. The change also furthers internal consistency within the rule itself; the time for filing a motion for new trial on any other ground currently runs from that same event.
Finally, the time to file a motion for new trial based upon newly discovered evidence is increased to three years to compensate for what would have otherwise resulted in less time than that currently contemplated in the rule for filing such motions.
Changes Made to Rule 33 After Publication (“GAP Report”). The Advisory Committee changed the proposed amendment to require that any motions for new trials based upon newly discovered evidence must be filed within three years, instead of two years, from the date of the verdict. The Committee also incorporated changes offered by the Style Subcommittee.
Committee Notes on Rules—2002 Amendment
The language of Rule 33 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Criminal Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.
Committee Notes on Rules—2005 Amendment
Rule 33(b)(2) has been amended to remove the requirement that the court must act within seven days after a verdict or finding of guilty if it sets another time for filing a motion for a new trial. This amendment parallels similar changes to Rules 29 and 34. Further, a conforming amendment has been made to Rule 45(b)(2).
Currently, Rule 33(b)(2) requires the defendant to move for a new trial within seven days after the verdict or the finding of guilty verdict, or within some other time set by the court in an order issued during that same seven-day period. Similar provisions exist in Rules 29 and 34. Courts have held that the seven-day rule is jurisdictional. Thus, if a defendant files a request for an extension of time to file a motion for a new trial within the seven-day period, the court must rule on that motion or request within the same seven-day period. If for some reason the court does not rule on the request within the seven days, it loses jurisdiction to act on the underlying substantive motion. See, e.g., United States v. Smith, 331 U.S. 469, 473 –474 (1947) (rejecting argument that trial court had power to grant new trial on its own motion after expiration of time in Rule 33); United States v. Marquez, 291 F.3d 23, 27–28 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citing language of Rule 33, and holding that “district court forfeited the power to act when it failed to . . . fix a new time for a filing a motion for new trial [sic] within seven days of the verdict”).
Assuming that the current rule was intended to promote finality, there is nothing to prevent the court from granting the defendant a significant extension of time, so long as it does so within the seven-day period. Thus, the Committee believed that the rule should be amended to be consistent with all of the other timing requirements in the rules, which do not force the court to act on a motion to extend the time for filing within a particular period of time or lose jurisdiction to do so.
Accordingly, the amendment deletes the language regarding the court's acting within seven days to set the time for filing. Read in conjunction with the conforming amendment to Rule 45(b), the defendant is still required to file a timely motion for a new trial under Rule 33(b)(2) within the seven-day period specified. The defendant may, under Rule 45, seek an extension of time to file the underlying motion as long as the defendant does so within the seven-day period. But the court itself is not required to act on that motion within any particular time. Further, under Rule 45(b)(1)(B), if for some reason the defendant fails to file the underlying motion for new trial within the specified time, the court may nonetheless consider that untimely underlying motion if the court determines that the failure to file it on time was the result of excusable neglect.
Changes Made After Publication and Comment. The Committee made no substantive changes to Rule 33 following publication.
Committee Notes on Rules—2009 Amendment
Former Rules 29, 33, and 34 adopted 7-day periods for their respective motions. This period has been expanded to 14 days. Experience has proved that in many cases it is not possible to prepare a satisfactory motion in 7 days, even under the former rule that excluded intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. This led to frequent requests for continuances, and the filing of bare bones motions that required later supplementation. The 14-day period—including intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays as provided by Rule 45(a)—sets a more realistic time for the filing of these motions.