Source(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; 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 continues existing law except that it enlarges the time for making motions in arrest of judgment from 3 days to 5 days. See Rule II (2) of Criminal Appeals Rules of 1933, 292 U.S.C. 661.
Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1966 Amendment
The words “on motion of a defendant” are added to make clear here, as in Rule 33, that the court may act only pursuant to a timely motion by the defendant.
The amendment to the second sentence is designed to clarify an ambiguity in the rule as originally drafted. In Lott v. United States, 367 U.S. 421 (1961) the Supreme Court held that when a defendant pleaded nolo contendere the time in which a motion could be made under this rule did not begin to run until entry of the judgment. The Court held that such a plea was not a “determination of guilty.” No reason of policy appears to justify having the time for making this motion commence with the verdict or finding of guilt but not with the acceptance of the plea of nolo contendere or the plea of guilty. The amendment changes the result in the Lott case and makes the periods uniform. The amendment also changes the time in which the motion may be made to 7 days. See the Advisory Committee’s Note to Rule 29.
Committee Notes on Rules—2002 Amendment
The language of Rule 34 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 34 (b) has been amended to remove the requirement that the court must act within seven days after the court accepts a verdict or finding of guilty, or after a plea of guilty or nolo contendere if it sets another time for filing a motion to arrest a judgment. The amendment parallels similar amendments to Rules 29 and 33. Further, a conforming amendment has been made to Rule 45 (b).
Currently, Rule 34 (b) requires the defendant to move to arrest judgment within seven days after the court accepts a verdict or finding of guilty, or after a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, or within some other time set by the court in an order issued by the court within that same seven-day period. Similar provisions exist in Rules 29 and 33. 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 to arrest judgment within the seven-day period, the judge 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, the court loses jurisdiction to act on the underlying substantive motion, if it is not filed within the seven days. 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 filing a motion for a new trial 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 rule 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 to arrest judgment under Rule 34 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 within the specified time, the court may nonetheless consider that untimely 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 34 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.