Convictions have more consequences than incarceration, probation, and fines. Even after successfully serving your incarceration period, a criminal conviction can impact your immigration status, and future job prospects, among other aspects of your life. Most people do not notice how a conviction can affect them until they are convicted and sentenced. Fortunately, even after entering a guilty plea or a judge pronounces you guilty at the end of the trial, you are still entitled to challenge your conviction by seeking post-conviction relief.
If you wish to seek relief after a conviction, you need to consult an experienced attorney to know your options. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we never cease fighting for our client's best interests, even after they are convicted. Our skilled lawyers will assist you in exploring all the post-conviction relief options available for your case so that you can begin afresh. We will continue to protect your constitutional rights and interests by reducing, eliminating, or vacating your criminal conviction to cure the repercussions of having a criminal record. Call us for a consultation and learn more about how we can help you.
Post-Conviction Relief Overview
Post-conviction relief is a term that refers to the legal channels through which persons found guilty of a criminal offense can pursue to have their sentences modified, convictions overturned, civil rights reinstated, or criminal records expunged. There is usually a limited period within which a person can seek these reliefs, so you want to consult with an attorney immediately to review your best options. Additionally, having a judge agree to your relief request requires expert representation by a knowledgeable lawyer who comprehends relevant statutes and has the necessary resources to comply with stipulated guidelines.
Eligibility for Post-Conviction Relief
It is critical to know that not two criminal convictions can be the same; therefore, post-conviction relief options vary from one defendant to another. Your post-conviction relief lawyer should be able to study your case carefully, recommend relief options that apply to it, and provide personalized representation. Also, note that not every defendant is eligible for post-conviction relief. You may qualify for relief if:
- New evidence is introduced and additional issues raised— if you have new irrefutable evidence that casts doubt on the guilty verdict against you, you can request that the court reviews it. Other matters usually arise when new techniques for gathering evidence are applied or the prosecution withholds essential info.
- You want to move ahead with your life— most people convicted of a crime are subjected to discrimination in their private and work lives, even after their release from jail or prison. Several types of relief can enable you to move forward with your life smoothly, including criminal record sealing, removal from Megan’s List, probation, and restoration of civil rights that will help you lead life typically.
- The state did not apply appropriate statutes to your case— if a prosecution team does not meet all the elements of a statutory crime beyond any reasonable doubt, a presiding judge should not make a conviction. You may be eligible for post-conviction relief where the judge found guilt without appropriate application of all legal elements. Additionally, a court may grant post-conviction relief when a law has undergone various changes.
- There were errors and mistakes at the court trial— if you did not receive a fair outcome at your court trial, you have the right to request that a judge reviews it. Your lawyer can analyze the trial transcript to determine if any errors or mistakes were made. They can examine the specific facts of your case to establish a basis to obtain relief for you.
Other situations that may make you eligible for post-conviction relief are:
- You were found guilty of a marijuana crime.
- If you were never incarcerated for your charges and have fully and successfully served your probation sentence.
- If you were pronounced guilty of any felony violation that can be lowered to a misdemeanor.
- If you were not advised of your constitutional rights or the repercussions of your plea agreement
- If your lawyer provided you with ineffective representation.
Filing Post-Conviction Relief Documents
Several post-conviction relief options may be available for your case. You must make each request within a specified period. Should you miss the deadline or fail to assert the best possible defense, you might not obtain the results you deserve, even if you have a solid foundation for your petition. Thus, if you have decided to pursue post-conviction relief, reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible to meet all deadlines.
Types of Post-Conviction Relief
It is essential to consult and work with an experienced lawyer who understands state statutes and their application to every situation. Based on your case facts, you may be eligible for one or several types of relief after your conviction. Common types of relief available in California include:
Some counties in California have departments where prosecuting attorneys review cases where the accused might have been wrongfully convicted. In LA county, you can bring a claim for review by the Conviction Integrity Unit.
Sealing Juvenile Records
Juvenile records are not automatically sealed once a child offender turns eighteen, like most people believe, unless the offender obtained a ‘seal and destroy’ judicial order per WIC 781. Also, not everybody qualifies to seal their juvenile record. However, if you are eligible, you should petition for it as soon as possible. Juvenile records present a bad picture to potential landlords, colleges, and employers. Therefore, they can affect the capability to obtain financial aid, secure employment, live in given locations, and enroll in college.
Certificate of Rehabilitation
People found guilty of certain offenses and have resided in California for a minimum of five years might qualify to obtain a COR (Certificate of Rehabilitation). People with Certificates of Rehabilitation often have better chances for professional licenses and jobs. And in given cases, a COR relieves a person from the requirement to comply with the sex offender registration requirement. And for state residents, having a certificate of rehabilitation is the initial step toward having a full Governor’s pardon.
Restoration of Firearm Rights
Particular criminal convictions lead to the forfeiture of firearm rights in California. Although, the rights can be restored. If you lost your firearm rights after a conviction, you might reinstate them provided your conviction was not for a felony that involves a deadly weapon or domestic violence.
One way of pursuing restoration of firearm rights is to request that the court reduce your crime to a misdemeanor if you were found guilty of a felony wobbler offense. Unlike felony offenses, misdemeanor convictions do not generally impact firearm rights.
Another method of pursuing restoration of your firearm rights is by obtaining a Governor's pardon. Remember that if you are an in-state resident, you must first file a petition to obtain a COR before acquiring a Governor's pardon.
Conviction Record Expungement
A conviction for any criminal offense will stay on your criminal record until you request to have it deleted. There is no specific time frame when it will merely disappear by itself. This may cause challenges when seeking new employment, joining college, or applying for mortgage loans or rental leases. The good news is there is a remedy to that.
After successfully serving your probation sentence and you qualify, you can file a petition requesting that your criminal record be expunged or deleted. If your request is granted, the judge will dismiss your case with no conviction, and you do not have to tell prospective employers about your expunged case. Record expungement is, however, not an option for people found guilty of particular sex offenses involving minors and defendants who served time in prison for a violation.
Exclusion from Megan’s List
The Megan’s Law website publicizes info about registered sex offenders in California. The information of certain offenders will automatically be excluded from Megan’s List, while other offenders can file a petition requesting that their info be excluded. The sex offenders that can file a petition for exclusion from the list include those found guilty of:
- A crime that did not entail oral copulation or penetration, whose casualty was the accused’s child, grandchild, sibling, or stepchild, and for which they have completed probation.
- PC 647.6, molesting or annoying a child.
- PC 243.4(a), sexual battery by restraint.
If you qualify, you can apply to the Governor of California requesting your sentence to be commuted after being found guilty of an offense. A commutation means the sentence will be lifted entirely or reduced. However, if you have more than one felony conviction, a majority of the justices of the Supreme Court would have to agree to the commutation. Commutation is also called executive clemency, and applying for it is free.
Motion for Early Termination of Probation
Although a probation sentence is preferable to serving time in jail or prison, it could still hold you back. A probation sentence can prevent you from traveling outside California, securing employment, and participating in other activities. Thus, you can always seek the early termination of your probation sentence under PC 1203.3 if you can prove that justice has been served.
Practically, judges prefer that an accused person completes a minimum of twelve to eighteen months of their probation sentence before they can apply for early termination of probation. A defendant should also have complied with all other probation terms, like taking classes and paying fines.
If convicted of an offense, you can bring a motion for resentencing, also known as a petition to modify a sentence, in court seeking the sentence to be modified. For example, if found guilty of a wobbler felony, you can request that it be lowered to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47. Alternatively, you might be capable of having your sentence reduced according to Senate Bill (SB) 1437 if you were found guilty of felony murder, which could cut several years off of your felony murder sentence. Most defendants generally request to be relieved of probation conditions or released from incarceration.
Writ of Habeas Corpus Petition
The writ of habeas corpus petition is described under PC 1473 and PC 1508. Usually, filing a writ of habeas corpus is the last recourse in criminal cases if the appeal process is unsuccessful. The writ's scope is often very narrow. Here, you are simply asserting that you are being incarcerated illegally.
California law lists the requirements you must meet before filing a writ of habeas corpus. They include the following:
- You should be in incarceration.
- You must have used up all other remedies (that is, filed all potential appeals).
- An appellate court should not have already resolved the issue or issues you aired in the petition.
Regarding the last requirement, you cannot raise again the legal matters previously discussed and rejected by the court of appeals in the writ petition. However, exceptions apply. And regarding the first condition, incarceration means you are confined in county jail or state prison, out on bail, probation, or parole, or released on your own recognizance while the charges against you are pending.
You must file the writ of habeas corpus petition with the superior court. There are no strict time limits or deadlines when you can file this petition. State criminal laws only provide that a person must file this petition when in custody and on time, as established by the case facts.
General arguments in a writ of habeas corpus petition are corroborated by the evidence of serious errors committed during the trial by either the defense attorney or prosecution or new evidence that casts reasonable doubt on the guilty verdict against the defendant.
Should the judge grant your writ petition, you should be set free of incarceration. However, note that there are often several steps before a judge renders their formal decision on the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. For example, should the judge finds the facts the petition had raised true, they will issue an order to show cause and invite the state to file its response to the petition. The response is called a return. The defendant can then file their answer to the return, and the answer is called a traverse.
Once the defendant has filed a traverse, the judge may schedule a hearing and review evidence submitted by both sides. They will then render their decision at the end of their hearing.
Motion for a New Trial
If you are convicted at trial, you can bring a motion for another trial under PC 1181. As the name suggests, this is requesting that the court grants you a do-over since you believe the original trial was not conducted properly.
This motion is usually granted where prosecutorial misconduct occurred or prejudice against the accused deprived them of their right to a fair trial, thus influencing the verdict. Other grounds for this motion to be granted include the following:
- Destruction or loss of trial transcript or record.
- Newly discovered evidence.
- Insufficiency of evidence.
- A mistake of law by the court.
- Jury misconduct.
Note that a motion for another trial differs from an appeal. The latter is filed when a court of appeal reviews the accused’s trial, often in district court. An appeal is, therefore, outside of the trial court’s jurisdiction. You cannot present additional testimony or new evidence during an appeal. Additionally, the court of appeals does not retry the case. Instead, it re-examines the trial record and reviews it to see whether the trial court committed any procedural errors.
You must file your motion for a new trial with the court clerk before your sentencing hearing starts, or the court grants a probation sentence, if applicable. Per PC 1191, the judge must rule on the motion within twenty days after a guilty verdict or thirty days after the verdict if you need more time to perfect your motion.
The judge has wide discretion to agree to this motion and might draw inferences when re-examining a material fact and reweighing the evidence. Unsurprisingly, many judges are reluctant to acknowledge that a trial they presided over was flawed; therefore, they rarely agree to this motion.
On the rare occasion that the judge grants the motion, they will issue a new trial order, and another court trial will be held with a different jury. If this motion is granted and you are in detention, you may request to be set free on bail.
The original guilty verdict stands if the court denies your motion for a new trial. However, even after your request is denied, you can still have another chance if you succeed in appealing your case.
Also, keep in mind that there are cases when even though a court does not grant another trial, it may modify your verdict to a lesser included crime of the underlying offenses or lower the degree of the charges.
Motion to Withdraw a Plea
A motion to withdraw a plea is also called a ‘motion to vacate judgment’ and is described under PC 1018. A defendant files this motion to request the court to allow them to take back their no-contest or guilty plea.
Courts seldom allow the accused persons to take back their pleas. Two of the rare occasions courts can allow this is if the accused can prove they were not aware of what they were pleading to or did not enter the plea voluntarily and freely.
Another rare occasion that can lead a judge to grant this motion is if the defendant did not receive competent legal representation. For example, maybe the lawyer did not clarify everything to them, like the adverse immigration consequences, including deportation for immigrant defendants. This is known as ineffective assistance of counsel.
If you file this motion and the judge grants it, you can negotiate for another plea bargain or stand trial. And if you lose, you are still bound by the terms of your plea. You could still try challenging your sentence by appealing or seeking the conviction to be expunged. You may win your case if you appeal to the higher court challenging the judge’s decision to deny your motion to withdraw your appeal. In this case, you will be required to prove the judge abused their discretion or committed a legal mistake in the denial.
You should consult your lawyer to know if you qualify for post-conviction relief and what type of relief applies to your case.
How a Post-Conviction Relief Attorney Can Help
The lawyer you choose for representation can significantly affect the success of your post-conviction relief request. That is why you need to hire a lawyer experienced in these matters. The more experienced the lawyer is, the higher your chances of obtaining a positive outcome. A knowledgeable post-conviction relief attorney can make a difference in the following ways:
- Applying the relevant laws to every case— requesting post-conviction relief needs a skilled lawyer to understand the original statutes that led to a conviction and laws that can offer relief from the harsh sentences. The lawyer should be well-conversant with federal and California state laws.
- Helping you achieve your goals— an experienced and dedicated lawyer will fight aggressively to defend your legal rights and strive to achieve your goals for your future. Several post-conviction relief options are available, and your lawyer should assist you in finding the option that enables you to move forward personally and professionally.
- Analyzing your record— an essential step in post-conviction relief cases entails determining where things in your original case went wrong. You need a skilled lawyer who will pay attention to detail and bring the necessary motions to change things.
Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me
You might feel overwhelmed after a criminal conviction, and understandably so. However, a conviction is not the end of the road for you. You can still challenge the court’s decision and seek post-conviction relief. Obtaining relief after a conviction may mean starting again on a clean slate and having new employment opportunities. An experienced lawyer can help you fight for the post-conviction relief you deserve.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have obtained favorable post-conviction relief outcomes for our clients thanks to our in-depth knowledge of federal and state laws. We will explain your relief options in simple terms so you can make an informed decision on how you would like us to proceed with your case. Call us today at 424-333-0943 to set up a cost-free initial consultation and case evaluation.