Post-conviction relief refers to the legal process of seeking relief from a criminal conviction after the conviction has become final. Often, people refer to this as a motion to reopen or motion to vacate, or even a motion to modify. “Post-conviction relief” is a phrase that explains how to fix something in a criminal case after the case has been resolved in a court. It’s a way of turning back the clock, for a specific purpose.
The post-conviction process can help to undo an injustice in several ways:
- New Evidence: A defendant can pursue post-conviction relief if new evidence comes to light that was not available while the case was still open and pending—that is, before the case was resolved. This evidence may exonerate the defendant or cast doubt on the validity of the conviction.
- Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: If the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel, they may be entitled to post-conviction relief. This could be the result of the attorney’s failure to investigate, communicate, or present a viable defense strategy.
- Constitutional Violations: If a defendant’s Constitutional rights were violated during the investigation, trial, or sentencing process, they may be entitled to post-conviction relief. This could include violations of due process, double jeopardy, or the right to counsel.
- Sentencing Errors: Post-conviction relief can also be sought if there were errors in the sentencing process. For example, if the sentence was based on incorrect information, or if the judge applied an incorrect guideline or statute.
Overall, post-conviction relief provides a mechanism for defendants to challenge their convictions and seek justice for any wrongs that may have occurred during their criminal proceedings. While the process can be lengthy and complicated, it offers a crucial avenue for correcting wrongful convictions and ensuring that justice is served.
But be careful. Not every criminal defense attorney knows how to handle post-conviction negotiations, motions, and litigation. When seeking the help of an attorney for the purpose of reopening a criminal case, it is important to know that the attorney has experience in the practice of post-conviction litigation, and that every possible basis for the post-conviction relief is explored. While criminal defense attorneys may know the basics of post-conviction motions, there can be serious consequences in pursuing post-conviction relief without a proper strategy. Winning a post-conviction motion doesn’t mean you win your case. In fact, reopening a conviction may subject you to new and vigorous re-prosecution, a result you don’t want to have to go through, especially if your post-conviction attorney can strategize to avoid that consequence.