How to Win Post-conviction Relief
If you want to know how to win post-conviction relief, talk to Strickland Webster, LLC. We have the resources you need. Book an appointment with us today.
Choosing who will represent you during the PCR motion hearings may be more important than choosing your trial defense counsel. That’s because if your PCR legal counsel fails to properly handle your case or defend it, you can’t claim ineffective assistance of counsel and appeal the PCR judge’s decision.
Your PCR attorney should read through the transcript of your trial and identify all legal errors made by your defense team, the trial judge, or the prosecution. They should also be familiar with state laws to know when and how to file the required motions and petitions.
A local Georgia appeal attorney at Strickland Webster LLC can help you.
Determine the Grounds for PCR
To win a post-conviction relief motion, you must be able to prove that serious issues occurred during your trial or direct appeal. Your legal counsel should read through your case files and legal rulings and identify possible grounds for your PCR motions, such as:
1. Newly discovered evidence
According to O.C.G.A. § 5-5-41, convicted defendants can file an Extraordinary Motion for New Trial if new evidence emerges that can change the outcome of their trial. This motion doesn’t have a time limitation and can be filed anytime after the discovery is made.
2. Ineffective counsel
One of the most common grounds for PCR is ineffective assistance of counsel during the trial court. Your motion must make it clear that the incompetent performance of the trial lawyer negatively affected your case. However, that can be easier said than done, even though this claim is commonly asserted as a post-conviction motion.
An individual who asserts ineffective assistance of counsel has to identify the specific omission their criminal defense attorney made. These omissions or errors have to fall outside the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. Moreover, the claimant has to determine that the inadequate performance was so severely adverse that there is a reasonable probability that the results of the proceedings and sentence imposed would have been different if the attorney’s performance had been adequate.
Examples of incompetent legal counsel include the failure to cross-examine witnesses or object to the admission of evidence.
3. Excessive sentencing
When the sentence imposed by the trial court judge exceeds the maximum possible authorized by the state or federal law, you can file a Motion to Modify Sentence with the trial court to correct and reduce your sentence. According to O.C.G.A. § 17-10-1(f), this motion must be filed within one year from the ruling of the trial court or 120 days from the appellate court’s.
4. Prosecutorial misconduct
Prosecutorial misconduct can include anything from withholding evidence from the defense to presenting inadmissible evidence. These illegal acts are usually violations of your constitutional right to due process and are grounds for appeal and PCR.
5. Constitutional violations
Constitutional violations that can be grounds for post-conviction relief include:
- Constitutional rights violations, including the right to a fair trial
- The statute under which you are prosecuted is against the U.S. or state constitution
- The conduct you are prosecuted for is protected under the U.S. or state constitution
You need to have a strong case for a successful motion for PCR. The PCR judge is usually the same judge that presided over your trial court hearing. Therefore, you must prove beyond doubt that their criminal judgment was wrong, and it warrants a new hearing.
File Within the Time Limit
PCR motions are not usually the first choice to overturn a conviction in a criminal case. They are usually sought after a direct appeal because they have relatively longer time limitations.
When you decide to file a PCR, you must make sure you are still within the specified time frame for the specific motion you want to file. For example, motions based on new evidence aren’t limited by time, whereas motions to correct sentencing must be filed within a year. A writ of habeas corpus petition, a motion to challenge unlawful incarceration, has the longest time limit of four years for criminal law cases, according to O.C.G.A. § 9-14-42. This time-limit countdown starts either after the ruling of the original trial court or the appellate court.
You must also ensure that you file your PCR motion and required documents within the specified time. Your attorney should inform you of these deadlines and your eligibility for a PCR.
Depending on your motion, you may need to provide other documents. These documents are usually enough for the PCR judge to make a decision on your case. However, an evidentiary hearing may be requested by the judge in some cases.
What Happens When You Win Post-Conviction
When you win your post-conviction relief motion, you may be granted a new trial or an acquittal, depending on your grounds for relief. In cases where excessive sentences are made, the sentence will be corrected and reduced according to the law. Additionally, this victory may open avenues for federal sentence reduction, providing further opportunities to mitigate the impact of your conviction.
If your PCR motion is denied, do not feel discouraged. Speak with an experienced post-conviction relief attorney to know if there is anything more that can be done in your case.