Once the jury has come back with a guilty verdict and a defendant has been sentenced, there is an appeals process to go through if they believe they did not get a fair trial for some reason. Once that process has been exhausted and the defendant is still facing time in jail or prison, there is another option that many turn to. Even after a guilty conviction and a loss of appeals, post-conviction relief may provide some hope to defendants convicted of crimes. There are several options to choose from when looking for some way to minimize a sentence or overturn a verdict, and post-conviction relief may come after other avenues are exhausted.
If convictions are unjust or sentences are overly harsh, or there is reason to believe the defendant did not receive a fair trial, an appeal may be filed. This involves uncovering errors that occur at the trial court level such as excluded testimony, prosecutorial misconduct, improper jury instructions or prejudicial evidence.
Pardons and expungements
Felony and misdemeanor convictions can at times be expunged when state and federal laws are applicable. This can help to clean the slate and give a defendant a fresh start even after being convicted of a crime and doing jail time. With an expunged record, there are no hindrances on getting a job in the future. There is also an option to draft and file a petition for presidential or governmental pardons when appropriate.
This process is used to reduce prison terms, come up with alternative penalties or give options for more favorable results even after the guilty verdict has been handed down. Sentencing mitigation comes at the sentencing phase of the trial, when the accused is given a sentence for a crime they have been convicted of.
If an appeal is made and the appellate court holds the verdict and rules it as fair, there is no reason to give up hope yet. Convictions can be challenged on other grounds, and new trials and acquittals can be the outcome. Post-conviction relief may come when the original defense lawyer was incompetent, a constitutional right was violated or a confession or plea was coerced by police when the accused was mentally fragile or vulnerable.
Even after the guilty verdict has been read and the sentence has been determined, there is hope for a reduced sentence, appeal or some type of post-conviction relief. Because this is a complicated process, it may be a good idea to allow an attorney to answer any questions you have about PCR.