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All You Need to Know About Post-Conviction Relief

Post-conviction relief refers to a process in which an individual convicted of a crime can have their conviction overturned or vacated based on some new evidence that was not available at the time of their trial.

Since it’s impossible to know with certainty whether someone is guilty of any crime before they are convicted, it stands to reason that if new information proves them innocent, they should not be forced to serve out their sentence.

What Is It?

Post conviction relief is the process of seeking out a new trial or sentence after you’ve already been convicted and sentenced.

If you believe that your trial was flawed in some way, you can petition for post conviction relief.

The judge will then determine whether or not your petition has merit before granting it, which could lead to a new trial or sentence.

It’s worth noting that this type of relief is only available in certain circumstances, so it’s important to read up on the specifics beforehand.

When Can You File for It?

The first thing you need to know about post conviction relief is that it can’t be filed until after your conviction has been final.

This means that if you have an appeal, or the case is still pending in court, you may not be able to file a petition for post conviction relief.

There are four ways that someone might file for post conviction relief:

✓ ) habeas corpus petitions

✓ ) appeals

✓ ) judicial review

✓ ) appeals of adverse rulings by the parole board.

Who Is Eligible?

Not everyone is eligible for post conviction relief. In order to be eligible, you must have filed a petition within two years of the conviction.

The court will not consider your petition if the conviction took place more than five years ago or if it was less than two years ago and you were sentenced to death.

Your petition will also be denied if it cannot prove that the error in question had an effect on the outcome of your trial or hearing.

If you are convicted on drug charges, this means that there has to be proof that drugs were involved in some way with regard to your case.

What Are the Requirements?

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To be eligible for post conviction relief, the applicant must show that he or she has a substantial claim of innocence.

For example, if the defendant was convicted on insufficient evidence, his or her conviction may be overturned.

The burden is on the defendant to prove his innocence by a preponderance of the evidence  that is, more likely than not.

There are three types of post conviction relief: habeas corpus (seeking release from custody), coram nobis (seeking reversal of a previous court decision) and post conviction DNA testing.

A person seeking any type of post conviction relief will have to complete an application and file it with the appropriate court.

How Do You File for It?

If you are currently in prison and are not eligible for parole or release, a petition for post conviction relief can be filed in the court of original jurisdiction.

In most cases, this would be the trial court that heard your case.

The petition should include a statement of facts as well as a brief statement as to why relief is warranted.

The decision on whether or not post conviction relief will be granted is up to the presiding judge and can vary depending on the situation.

Generally, if the new evidence shows actual innocence of the crime(s) then it’s likely that post conviction relief will be granted.

However, if it doesn’t show actual innocence and was submitted after an unsuccessful appeal (such as a habeas corpus appeal) then chances are low.

What Happens After You File?

The filing process is fairly straightforward and will vary based on the type of relief being sought.

The convicted person has a right to appeal his or her conviction after it becomes final, meaning after all appeals have been exhausted.

The appellate court reviews the record of the trial and decides whether there were any errors in law or evidence that could have affected the verdict.

If so, then it can order a new trial or even a complete reversal of the conviction.

There are also other forms of post conviction relief.

For example, if an attorney discovered some form of information that should have been provided at trial but was not, the person may be entitled to a writ of habeas corpus which would require their release from custody.

How Long Does the Process Take?

The post conviction relief process can take anywhere from a couple months to years.

The amount of time it takes largely depends on the nature of the relief requested, the facts of your case, and the backlog in your state.

For example, if you have new evidence that proves you are innocent of the crime for which you were convicted you may be able to file for post conviction relief soon after your conviction has been affirmed.

The usual turnaround time for a petition for habeas corpus is six months but there are many factors that affect this so don’t count on any one timeline.

Some states impose strict deadlines for filing such as 30 days from the date of decision by an appellate court. In these cases, appeals must be filed within 30 days or they will not be considered.

What Are the Possible Outcomes?

A post conviction relief hearing is a court proceeding in which a defendant asks the judge for a new trial. There are two possible outcomes:

✓) The court grants the motion and holds that a new trial should be granted.

✓) The court denies the motion. If the court grants the motion, it must also order that a retrial take place. If not, the proceedings will stop there.

Written by Dallas

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