Federal prisoners may move to vacate, set aside or correct a federal sentence on the grounds that “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” See 28 U.S.C. Section 2255(a). In the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Congress amended section 2255 to add a one-year statute of limitations for the filing of a section 2255 motion. See 28 U.S.C. Section 2255(f). Because the one-year limitation is rigid and unforgiving, it is important that anyone considering filing a section 2255 understand and strictly comply with subsection (f).
Section 2255 Motion: Statute of Limitations
The one-year period of limitation, or statute of limitations, runs from the latest of: (1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final; (2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action; (3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or (4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.
Section 2255 Motion Statute of Limitations: Date on Which Judgement Becomes Final
The triggering date found in Section 2255(f)(l) — the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final — varies from case-to-case. If the movant did not appeal the original conviction, the judgment of conviction becomes final when the time during which he could have appealed expires. In nearly every case, the time to appeal expires 14 days after entry of judgment. See Fed.R.App.P. 4(b). If the movant did appeal (but lost), the judgment becomes final when the 90-day timeframe for filing a certiorari petition to the Supreme Court expires. If the movant filed a petition for writ of certiorari, the judgment becomes final when the Supreme Court either (a) denies certiorari, or (b) affirms the conviction on the merits.
Section 2255 Motion Statute of Limitations: Movant Prevented from Filing Section 2255 Motion
If the movant was prevented from filing a section 2255 motion by government action that is either unlawful or unconstitutional, the limitation period begins to run on the date the impediment was removed. 28 U.S.C. Section 2255(f)(2). The most common unconstitutional impediment cited by federal prisoners involves the improper withholding of exculpatory material. Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), provides that withholding such exculpatory material violates the Constitution, and if a prisoner’s motion is based on newly obtained Brady material, the limitation period will begin to run when the material is obtained.
Section 2255 Motion Statute of Limitations: Supreme Court Recognizes New Right
When the Supreme Court recognizes a new right that forms the basis of a federal prisoner’s section 2255 motion, the limitation period begins to run when the right was recognized by the Court — but only if the Court made the new right retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. 28 U.S.C. Section 2255(f)(3). This limitation period is very heavily litigated, and is loaded with traps for the unwary. For example, consider this conundrum: the Supreme Court rarely, if ever, declares whether a newly established right applies retroactively when it creates the right. If the Court later declares the right retroactively applicable, the time period has already been running — since the right was established. Moreover, federal district courts can declare a right newly established by the Supreme Court retroactive themselves. As such, the movant must not wait for a retroactivity declaration from the Supreme Court (or any court), as doing so could result in a time-barred motion. For more information on Section 2255(f)(3) limitation periods, please click here (L).
Section 2255 Motion Statute of Limitations: Newly Discovered Evidence
If a movant’s claim is based on newly discovered evidence, the time period begins to run on “the date upon which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.” 28 U.S.C. Section 2255(f)(4). What constitutes due diligence is a fact-specific question that often requries an evidentiary hearing to resolve. When the movant is incarcerated (as is almost always the case), the conditions of confinement will be taken into account when making a due diligence determination. For more information on Section 2255(f)(4) limitation periods, please click here (L).
The importance of the Section 2255(f) limitation periods cannot be gainsaid. A federal prisoner who seeks to file a section 2255 motion and misses the statute of limitations will find himself in an unenviable position. The motion will be dismissed, and any future section 2255 motions will be considered second or successive (L).
Experienced Section 2255 Motion Attorneys Who Understand the Applicable Statute of Limitations
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Brandon Sample are experienced section 2255 motion litigators. We know the statute of limitations traps, and how to avoid them. Our team of dedicated professionals can help you or your loved one perfect a section 2255 motion and avoid statute of limitations problems..
If you or a loved one are considering a section 2255 motion, contact us (L) right away. We have seen pro-se section 2255 motions that were one day late be dismissed for failure to comply with Section 2255(f). Don’t let that be you. Contact us (L) today for a consultation. We can educate you on the statute of limitations for a section 2255 motion, as well as research, draft, and file your section 2255 motion for you.
Statute of Limitations for Section 2255 Motion FAQs
Q: When can I file a section 2255 motion?
A: Because section 2255 is intended to provide federal prisoners all of the privileges of habeas corpus, it is technically available at any time. In practice, however, the availability of section 2255 is limited by the AEDPA-imposed statute of limitations and other judicially created doctrines. For most federal prisoners, the section 2255 motion should be filed after the appeal process is finalized.
Q: Is there a time limit to filing a section 2255 motion?
A: Yes. The motion must be filed within one year of any of the four following triggering points: (1) The date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final; (2) The date on which an unlawful, government-imposed impediment to filing the motion is removed; (3) The date on which a new, retroactively applicable right is recognized by the Supreme Court, when that right is the basis of the motion; or (4) The date on which the facts supporting the claim presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.
Q: How do I know when my conviction becomes final?
A: If you did not file an appeal, your conviction becomes final 14 days after the entry of judgment. If you did file an appeal (but lost), your conviction becomes final when the 90-day timeframe to apply to the Supreme Court for certiorari expires. If you filed for certiorari, your conviction becomes final when the Supreme Court either denies your certiorari petition, or affirms the conviction on the merits.
Q: What is a Brady violation?
A: In Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), the Supreme Court said that it is unconstitutional for the government to withhold from the defense favorable, exculpatory material. Because federal prisoners often don’t learn of the existence of Brady material until well after trial is over, section 2255 allows for the filing of a Brady claim within one year of when the material is obtained. This is ripe material for a section 2255 motion, and can extended the applicable statute of limitations.
Q: What conditions could renew the time I have to file a section 2255 motion? What would extend the statute of limitations?
A: The discovery of Brady material restarts the one-year statute of limitations. The recognition of a new, retroactively applicable right by the Supreme Court also restarts the clock to file a section 2255 motion — only, of course, when the new right provides the basis for your claim. The discovery of new evidence that supports the claim restarts the clock as well, but the one-year statute of limitations begins to run when the evidence could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence – -not when it actually was discovered.