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440.1 Motion to vacate judgment

The statutory provisions associated with a motion to vacate judgment are found in Article 440 of the New York Criminal Procedure Code. There are a number of elements and factors associated with a motion to vacate judgment in a criminal case that are crucial to fully understand.

Timeframe for Pursuing a Motion to Vacate Judgment

The New York Criminal Procedure Code permits a motion to vacate judgment to be filed any time after an entry of judgment has been entered by a court in a criminal case. An entry of judgment typically is said to have occurred when a court sentences a defendant after being found guilty in a criminal proceeding. The guilty verdict entered can either be the result of a determination by a jury or by the court itself after a defendant enters into a plea agreement.

Grounds Upon Which a Defendant can Seek to Vacate Judgment

There exist a number of grounds in the New York Criminal Procedure Code which a defendant can utilize in seeking to have a judgment of the court vacated. These include that the court did not have proper jurisdiction of the case or defendant in the first instance.

Other reasons why a criminal defendant might be able to seek to have a judgment vacated include that the judgment itself was entered as a result of duress, misrepresentation, or fraud upon the court. A vacancy of a criminal judgment can be sought in New York based on a contention that material evidence determined to be false was introduced at trial. A demonstration must be made that the prosecution of the court knew the evidence was false.

On a related noted, a motion to vacate judgment can be pursued if a demonstration is made that material evidence was obtained or utilized in violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights. A motion to vacate judgment can be filed with the court based on a contention that, because of mental disease or defect, a defendant was not able to understand the proceedings during a criminal trial.

Yet another reason upon which a motion to vacate judgment in a criminal case can be pursued involves the discovery of new evidence. In order to pursue a motion to vacate because of new evidence, that evidence could not have been provided to the court, even if the defendant exercised due diligence in attempting to find such evidence.

Finally, another basis upon which a motion to vacate can be pursued involved actual innocence. If after a conviction in a criminal case DNA evidence demonstrates a defendant is likely innocent, a motion to vacate a criminal judgment is appropriate.

Filing a Motion to Vacate

A motion to vacate must be in writing. A motion to vacate is filed with the clerk of the court where the criminal judgment was handed down.

Upon filing a motion to vacate, the judge that oversaw the initial criminal case typically is designated to consider and rule upon the motion to vacate. There are exceptions to this general practice. For example, if the alleged conduct of the judge is a reason why a motion to vacate is being sought, a conflict would exist and the matter would be assigned to a different judge.

If the court believes an argument can be made, that is supported by evidence, to vacate a judgment, the matter typically is then scheduled for a hearing in court. The defendant and the prosecution present evidence and arguments supporting their positions regarding the motion to vacate a criminal judgment.

Due to the complexities associated with pursuing a bona fide motion to vacate, a defendant typically is best served seeking legal assistance. Oftentimes, the original criminal defense attorney will pursue this type of motion for a defendant.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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