Fri. Jun 7th, 2024

Rule 29. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal


(a) Motion Before Submission to Jury. Motions for directed verdict are abolished and motions for judgment of acquittal shall be used in their place. The court on motion of a defendant or of its own motion shall order the entry of judgment of acquittal of one or more offenses charged in the indictment or information after the evidence on either side is closed if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction of such offense or offenses. If a defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the evidence offered by the government is not granted, the defendant may offer evidence without having reserved the right.


(b) Reservation of Decision on Motion. The court may reserve decision on a motion for judgment of acquittal, proceed with the trial (where the motion is made before the close of all the evidence), submit the case to the jury and decide the motion either before the jury returns a verdict or after it returns a verdict of guilty or is discharged without having returned a verdict. If the court reserves decision, it must decide the motion on the basis of the evidence at the time the ruling was reserved.


(c) Motion After Discharge of Jury. If the jury returns a verdict of guilty or is discharged without having returned a verdict, a motion for judgment of acquittal may be made or renewed within 7 days after the jury is discharged or within such further time as the court may fix during the 7-day period. If a verdict of guilty is returned the court may on such motion set aside the verdict and enter judgment of acquittal. If no verdict is returned the court may enter judgment of acquittal. It shall not be necessary to the making of such a motion that a similar motion has been made prior to the submission of the case to the jury.


(d) Same: Conditional Ruling on Grant of Motion. If a motion for judgment of acquittal after verdict of guilty under this Rule is granted, the court shall also determine whether any motion for a new trial should be granted if the judgment of acquittal is thereafter vacated or reversed, specifying the grounds for such determination. If the motion for a new trial is granted conditionally, the order thereon does not affect the finality of the judgment. If the motion for a new trial has been granted conditionally and the judgment is reversed on appeal, the new trial shall proceed unless the appellate court has otherwise ordered. If such motion has been denied conditionally, the appellee on appeal may assert error in that denial, and if the judgment is reversed on appeal, subsequent proceedings shall be in accordance with the order of the appellate court.


(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; Pub. L. 99–646, §54(a), Nov. 10, 1986, 100 Stat. 3607 ; Apr. 29, 1994, eff. Dec. 1, 1994.)


Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules-1944

Note to Subdivision (a). 1. The purpose of changing the name of a motion for a directed verdict to a motion for judgment of acquittal is to make the nomenclature accord with the realities. The change of nomenclature, however, does not modify the nature of the motion or enlarge the scope of matters that may be considered.

2. The second sentence is patterned on New York Code of Criminal Procedure, sec. 410.

3. The purpose of the third sentence is to remove the doubt existing in a few jurisdictions on the question whether the defendant is deemed to have rested his case if he moves for a directed verdict at the close of the prosecution’s case. The purpose of the rule is expressly to preserve the right of the defendant to offer evidence in his own behalf, if such motion is denied. This is a restatement of the prevailing practice, and is also in accord with the practice prescribed for civil cases by Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [28 U.S.C., Appendix].

Note to Subdivision (b). This rule is in substance similar to Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 28 U.S.C., Appendix, and permits the court to render judgment for the defendant notwithstanding a verdict of guilty. Some Federal courts have recognized and approved the use of a judgment non obstante veredicto for the defendant in a criminal case, Ex parte United States, 101 F.2d 870 (C.C.A. 7th), affirmed by an equally divided court, United States v. Stone, 308 U.S. 519. The rule sanctions this practice.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules-1966 Amendment

Subdivision (a).-A minor change has been made in the caption.

Subdivision (b).-The last three sentences are deleted with the matters formerly covered by them transferred to the new subdivision (c).

Subdivision (c).-The new subdivision makes several changes in the former procedure. A motion for judgment of acquittal may be made after discharge of the jury whether or not a motion was made before submission to the jury. No legitimate interest of the government is intended to be prejudiced by permitting the court to direct an acquittal on a post-verdict motion. The constitutional requirement of a jury trial in criminal cases is primarily a right accorded to the defendant. Cf. Adams v. United States, ex rel. McCann, 317 U.S. 269 (1942); Singer v. United States, 380 U.S. 24 (1965); Note, 65 Yale L.J. 1032 (1956).

The time in which the motion may be made has been changed to 7 days in accordance with the amendment to Rule 45(a) which by excluding Saturday from the days to be counted when the period of time is less than 7 days would make 7 days the normal time for a motion required to be made in 5 days. Also the court is authorized to extend the time as is provided for motions for new trial (Rule 33) and in arrest of judgment (Rule 34).

References in the original rule to the motion for a new trial as an alternate to the motion for judgment of acquittal and to the power of the court to order a new trial have been eliminated. Motions for new trial are adequately covered in Rule 33. Also the original wording is subject to the interpretation that a motion for judgment of acquittal gives the court power to order a new trial even though the defendant does not wish a new trial and has not asked for one.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules-1994 Amendment

The amendment permits the reservation of a motion for a judgment of acquittal made at the close of the government’s case in the the same manner as the rule now permits for motions made at the close of all of the evidence. Although the rule as written did not permit the court to reserve such motions made at the end of the government’s case, trial courts on occasion have nonetheless reserved ruling. See, e.g., United States v. Bruno, 873 F.2d 555 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 110 S.Ct. 125 (1989); United States v. Reifsteck, 841 F.2d 701 (6th Cir. 1988). While the amendment will not affect a large number of cases, it should remove the dilemma in those close cases in which the court would feel pressured into making an immediate, and possibly erroneous, decision or violating the rule as presently written by reserving its ruling on the motion.

The amendment also permits the trial court to balance the defendant’s interest in an immediate resolution of the motion against the interest of the government in proceeding to a verdict thereby preserving its right to appeal in the event a verdict of guilty is returned but is then set aside by the granting of a judgment of acquittal. Under the double jeopardy clause the government may appeal the granting of a motion for judgment of acquittal only if there would be no necessity for another trial, i.e., only where the jury has returned a verdict of guilty. United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U.S. 564 (1977). Thus, the government’s right to appeal a Rule 29 motion is only preserved where the ruling is reserved until after the verdict.

In addressing the issue of preserving the government’s right to appeal and at the same time recognizing double jeopardy concerns, the Supreme Court observed:

  We should point out that it is entirely possible for a trial court to reconcile the public interest in the Government’s right to appeal from an erroneous conclusion of law with the defendant’s interest in avoiding a second prosecution. In United States v. Wilson, 420 U.S. 332 (1975), the court permitted the case to go to the jury, which returned a verdict of guilty, but it subsequently dismissed the indictment for preindictment delay on the basis of evidence adduced at trial. Most recently in United States v. Ceccolini, 435 U.S. 268 (1978), we described similar action with approval: ‘The District Court had sensibly made its finding on the factual question of guilt or innocence, and then ruled on the motion to suppress; a reversal of these rulings would require no further proceeding in the District Court, but merely a reinstatement of the finding of guilt.’ Id. at 271.

United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82, 100 n. 13 (1978). By analogy, reserving a ruling on a motion for judgment of acquittal strikes the same balance as that reflected by the Supreme Court in Scott.

Reserving a ruling on a motion made at the end of the government’s case does pose problems, however, where the defense decides to present evidence and run the risk that such evidence will support the government’s case. To address that problem, the amendment provides that the trial court is to consider only the evidence submitted at the time of the motion in making its ruling, whenever made. And in reviewing a trial court’s ruling, the appellate court would be similarly limited.

1986 Amendment

Subd. (d). Pub. L. 99–646 added subd. (d).

Effective Date of 1986 Amendment

Section 54(b) of Pub. L. 99–646 provided that: “The amendments made by this section [amending this rule] shall take effect 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act [Nov. 10, 1986].”



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