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What Is Post-Conviction Relief?

If you or your loved one has been found guilty and convicted of a criminal offense, it’s not the end of the road. You can seek post-conviction relief that could mitigate or erase the harsh effects of the conviction.

Post-conviction relief refers to those legal remedies and processes that can help convicts restore their civil rights, overturn their criminal convictions, modify their sentences, or clean up their criminal records. Most of these reliefs are available at both state and federal courts and can avail anyone dissatisfied with the results of their trial or the sentence issued.

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Post-conviction relief process is complex and often requires the defendant to file motions or petitions to the relevant court. The timeframe to pursue such relief after a conviction is often limited, so a defendant must act quickly before the window of opportunity closes.

In such cases, the defendant may need to consult with a post-conviction attorney who can ensure that the process goes smoothly.

A post-conviction lawyer represents clients seeking post-conviction relief in federal and state courts. These attorneys deeply understand the law in this area and what is required to obtain these reliefs. A post-conviction lawyer can help you determine your options if you wish the court to intervene further in your case.

Consulting with the right post-conviction lawyer is of critical importance. Some lawyers may be too familiar and comfortable with the process, so they may be unable to offer the most appropriate advice. An experienced post-conviction relief attorney can assess your case and develop a strategy that will maximize the outcome of your case.

Types of Post-Conviction Remedies


There are several kinds of post-conviction remedies available. The right one depends on your circumstances and what you intend to achieve.

Here are some common post-conviction relief options available in the US criminal justice system to help you decide. They include the following:

Types of Post Conviction Remedies

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Motion to Withdraw a Plea

If you were convicted because you pleaded guilty at your arraignment, you might be able to get your conviction overturned if you can demonstrate that your guilty plea was based on the following:

  • Inaccurate information
  • Coercion from the trial counsel
  • Ineffective assistance from the trial attorney

In such cases, you must file a motion to withdraw your plea. If granted, the effect of this relief is that it restarts the entire criminal trial as though the initial guilty plea never happened.

A motion to withdraw a plea can be filed any time before the trial judge issues your sentence. Once you’ve been sentenced, this option might no longer be available to you, so it is important to act fast if you intend to explore this course of action.

The grant of this is discretionary, so you’ll need to do all you can to convince the judge to see things from your point of view.


Motion for a New Trial

A motion for a new trial asks the trial court to vacate its judgment and order a new trial based on significant errors during the initial trial. This relief is notoriously difficult to obtain as courts would only grant it if the convicted applicant can show that a grant is in the interest of justice.

The grounds for granting such relief vary across state and federal courts depending on the applicable laws. But in most cases, the court will consider such motions if:

  • The jury’s verdict was contrary to the evidence given at the trial and was against the principles of justice and equity.
  • Substantial evidence was withheld from the jury or illegally admitted.
  • The applicant (convict) discovered new and important evidence after the verdict.

A successful motion leads to a retrial, allowing you to defend yourself adequately and avoid a conviction.

To explore this route, you must act quickly. For most states, you have 30 days after the erroneous verdict to file your motion. But under rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, you only have 7 days to file your motion unless your filing is based on newly discovered evidence, in which case, you can file your motion within three years.


Writ of Habeas Corpus

writ of habeas corpus is another form of post-conviction relief where prisoners can challenge the legality of their incarceration in state or federal court. A writ of habeas corpus may be granted by the US Supreme Court, district courts, and circuit courts across the various states if the applicant meets the relevant conditions.

The grant of a writ of habeas corpus leads to either the prisoner’s release or a retrial. However, this post-conviction relief may only be available in certain circumstances, such as when the court finds that:

  • The conviction is illegal detention by state authorities.
  • The applicant’s right to a fair trial was violated.
  • The convict’s conviction is based on evidence obtained through cruel and unusual punishment.

Habeas corpus lawyers can assist you in determining whether you or a loved one are eligible for this post-conviction proceeding.


Sentence Modification

Suppose you doubt a sentence’s validity or feel it is too severe. In that case, you can contact a post-conviction attorney to determine whether your case qualifies for sentence modification or re-sentencing.

Sentencing courts, including federal courts, generally have the power to modify, suspend or probate a sentence if they deem it appropriate. The grant of this relief is discretionary, so if you intend to request a re-sentencing or modification, you’ll need to convince the judge of the merits of your application.

Contact a post-conviction attorney to determine your eligibility for this relief and to help guide you through the criminal procedure.



Expungement restricts a person’s criminal records from public scrutiny. While the requirements for expungement vary across states, a common denominator in most cases is that you’d need to have served your sentence or received an absolute pardon before your record can be deleted.

Suppose you have completed your sentence, but you’re having trouble adjusting to life or getting a job or other opportunities due to your prior conviction. In that case, you can contact an attorney to determine whether you’re eligible for expungement of your criminal history.

An experienced post-conviction relief lawyer can help you navigate the post-conviction relief process and get the relief you deserve. With the right attorney, you can fight for your rights and seek a reality reflective of justice.

Direct Appeal vs. Post-Conviction Relief: How Are They Different?


Post-conviction relief is a legal process that allows a person convicted of a crime to challenge their conviction or sentence.

One of the primary differences between post-conviction relief motions and appeals post-conviction is that appeals are usually filed at a higher appellate court jurisdiction. In contrast, post-conviction motions are filed at the court where the initial trial and conviction occurred.

You can contact your attorney for legal advice and guidance if you need clarification on which procedures best serve your purpose.

The Role of a Post Conviction Lawyer

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The Role of a Post-Conviction Lawyer


A post-conviction lawyer is invaluable when dealing with a guilty verdict and criminal conviction. They understand the several complex rules that govern post-conviction relief processes and motions.

With their skill and experience, these lawyers can analyze the court records from your trial and identify any issues, errors, or procedural violations that could help the outcome of your case.

They can also represent you throughout the process and work to convince the judge to exercise their judicial discretion in your favor and help you get the relief you seek. Their knowledge of the Federal sentence reductions and the post-conviction process can help you with the outcome you are looking for.

Whether you’re looking to challenge a conviction or seeking a sentence modification, an experienced post-conviction relief lawyer is your best chance at achieving the desired outcome. A lawyer can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process and help you get the relief you’re entitled to.


What challenges and hurdles should I expect when pursuing post-conviction relief?

Pursuing post-conviction relief presents several challenges. Unlike direct appeals that focus on the trial record, post-conviction motions often require fresh evidence or arguments like prosecutorial misconduct or ineffective counsel. Securing an evidentiary hearing can be tough.

It’s where new evidence can be presented, but courts grant it only when there’s a substantial claim. Another hurdle is the limited scope of errors addressed, such as error coram nobis, which corrects fundamental errors from the original trial.

It’s crucial to have an attorney provide representation, given the intricacies of the criminal case, and ensure all procedural requirements are met.


Get Help From Experienced Post-Conviction Lawyers

If you or a loved one has been convicted of a federal crime and believe that your constitutional rights were violated, or if you have new evidence that could affect your case, contact us at Strickland Webster, LLC, to schedule a free consultation.

We have extensive experience in appellate procedure and post-conviction relief motions. Our knowledgeable attorneys, Sydney Strickland and Leigh Ann Webster, will work relentlessly to help you get the relief or justice you deserve.

At Strickland Webster, LLC, we understand that you’re fighting for your future and will work diligently to