Post-Conviction Relief to Vacate Unjust Criminal Convictions

Once the process for appealing a criminal conviction is complete, an unsuccessful appellant can still challenge a criminal conviction by applying for post-conviction relief (PCR). Unlike the direct appeal process, the petitioner is allowed to raise new claims. A PCR application cites any claims of error being raised by the petitioner as well as the relief being sought. The most common reasons for filing a petition for post-conviction relief are as follows:

  • Inadequate legal representation during the trial or direct appeal process
  • The conviction violated the U.S. constitution or the constitution of the convicting state
  • The court lacked jurisdiction to impose a sentence
  • Evidence exists that was not presented during the original trial
  • The sentence exceeded the limitations authorized by law or is otherwise erroneous
  • Evidence that a sentence has expired or a probation, conditional release or parole has been unlawfully revoked
The appropriate state or federal jurisdiction will file an answer petition in response to a petitioner’s application for post-conviction relief. Generally speaking, the court will appoint or the petitioner will retain a new attorney to provide legal representation during the PCR process.

Although a petitioner has the right to address the court during a post-conviction relief proceeding, victims are afforded the same privilege. Otherwise, most of the evidence consists of affidavits, documentary evidence and court transcripts. It is rare that a judge will allow a witness to provide direct testimony on behalf of a petitioner during a PCR proceeding.

There are two possible outcomes for a post-conviction relief application. The judge will either deny or grant the petition. If the petition is granted, the presiding judge may grant any of the following forms of relief:

  • A new trial
  • Release from incarceration
  • Modification of the original sentence
  • Other forms of just relief

Depending upon the outcome of a post-conviction application, either the state or petitioner may appeal the ruling of the court. The specific guidelines and requirements for seeking post-conviction relief and appealing PCR rulings are dictated by state or federal law. The rules governing these and other matters will vary from state to state. If a conviction is reversed and there is a new trial, it is possible to receive a sentence that is higher than the previous sentence.

The purpose of post-conviction relief is to allow those who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime to contest and reverse a criminal conviction. If the petitioner is successful, the unjust conviction will be removed from the official record. The removal of a conviction makes it much easier to locate employment, acquire custody of children and qualify for professional licenses and certifications. The appropriate documents for filing a post-conviction relief application may be obtained from the legal jurisdiction that enforced the sentence.

This article is provided by Criminal Appeals Lawyer, David Cantor. The Law Offices of David Michael Cantor is an AV rated criminal law firm that specializes in DUI cases as well as all aspects of criminal law.