David J. Celuch
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How post-conviction relief differs from an appeal

Two common ways to challenge the results of a criminal proceeding may include appealing to a higher court or initiating a motion for post-conviction relief in the trial court.

An appellate court will only review questions of law. This means you can only use an appeal to argue the trial judge made a legal mistake that resulted in your convictions.

Challenging factual determinations

Post-conviction relief, on the other hand, can address factual issues that led to your conviction or guilty plea. These may include the appearance of new evidence which was not available during the trial. In some cases, new DNA evidence may surface or a witness may change his or her story.

Ineffective assistance

Ineffective assistance of counsel can also serve as grounds for post-conviction relief. Generally, lawyers have fairly wide latitude in coming up with an appropriate strategy. Usually, a court will not find ineffective assistance simply because you felt your lawyer should have handled matter differently.

However, failing to provide material information might fall into this category. For instance, when a defendant considers taking a plea, he or she needs to know the full extent of the ensuing consequences. Among other issues, an attorney must advise the client about potential immigration consequences of pleading guilty. Neglecting to do so can serve as grounds for a claim of ineffective assistance.

Misconduct

Prosecutorial misconduct may also give rise to a motion for post-conviction relief. Sometimes, after the trial or plea process concludes, defendants learn that prosecutors hid information or misrepresented evidence.

A complex area of law

Post-conviction relief can be an intricate process. Even simply getting the court to accept the motion and reopen the case may involve arguing complex legal issues. There are also strict time and procedural requirements, so you need an attorney who is highly experienced in this particular area.

Potential outcomes for successful motion

Depending on the specific issues involved, a successful motion can result in several types of post-conviction relief. These may include a sentence modification, a new trial or release.

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