What is Post Conviction Relief in a Criminal Case?

What is Post Conviction Relief in a Criminal Case?

If a court or jury convicts you of a crime, it can feel like there are a lot of other things coming at you. You need to get ready for a sentencing hearing. You also want to consider whether you can file an appeal. These two steps are common in almost every case. But you can also seek post conviction relief.

What is post conviction relief?

The term “post conviction relief” is a general term with no specific definition. It includes efforts to get a new trial, to change your sentence or to get some other kind of relief from the court. But, under both federal and state law, you can file motions for post conviction relief.

What is a motion for resentencing?

The simplest example is also the most common: a motion for resentencing. If a court sentenced you, you can appeal to an appeals court. But, if there is some sort of problem with your sentence, you can file a motion for resentencing in the court where you were sentenced as well.

In this motion, you can argue that the court used the wrong sentencing guidelines. Courts often do this if they misunderstand your criminal history. You can also argue that your sentence was based on is wrong information. Again, this often happens when courts don’t understand your criminal record correctly.

What is a motion for a new trial or to dismiss?

But post conviction relief isn’t just limited to sentencing. It could also include motions to dismiss or for a new trial. In many cases, these motions rely on newly discovery evidence. Sometimes, newly discovered evidence comes in the form of a new DNA test. Other times, it is based on new witness testimony or when someone admits they committed perjury in your case. Another good example is when the prosecutor commits misconduct.

If your conviction is based on a guilty plea, you might want to file a motion to change that plea as well. You can file a motion to set aside a guilty plea before or after your conviction. When you file this kind of motion, you may argue that your plea was invalid. This usually means you plead guilty against your will or didn’t understand what you were doing.

A new trial could offer you post-conviction relief.
Image courtesy of Iamstocker via iStockphoto.com.

Can you get post conviction relief without a lawyer?

Yes, but it’s not easy. Winning post conviction motions is hard. You’re basically telling a court that the court got it wrong the first time. Judges will admit they got it wrong sometimes, but it takes a lot of work to make that happen. These motions also usually involve complicated science or legal procedures.

So, while you can get post conviction relief without a lawyer, it’s worth considering whether you want to find one instead. Many nonprofit groups like the Innocence Project and the ACLU exist to help people get released after wrongful convictions. These groups might help you.

The Takeaway:

If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you have options. You can seek a lower sentence at the sentencing hearing. You can also file an appeal. Finally, you can seek post conviction relief. The kind of post conviction relief you seek depends on your specific case and what court you are in.

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