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Can You Get Post-Conviction Relief?


To say that it is a disappointment to hear a jury declare you guilty at a criminal trial is an understatement, but the story does not always end there.  It is true that most defendants, after pleading guilty or being convicted at trial, are eager to get through their sentences so that they can get to the next phase of their lives as quickly as possible, to get out of jail or finish their probation terms.  If you have been wrongfully convicted, though, you cannot be content to undergo a punishment for a crime that you did not commit.  Several legal remedies are available to defendants who have received wrongful convictions in criminal court.  Here, our Miami criminal defense lawyer explains how post-conviction relief works and how it compares to other options for defendants who have been unfairly convicted or whose sentences are excessive.

Does “No Double Jeopardy” Apply If You Were Convicted?

Getting acquitted of a criminal charge has more finality than most legal actions.  The “no double jeopardy” rule means that, once you have been acquitted, you can never be tried again for the same charge arising from the same incident.  If your case results in a guilty plea or a not guilty verdict at trial, however, you still have the right to connect injustices that the state has committed against you in connection to your criminal case.  Consider the rights of defendants in criminal cases, such as the right to avoid self-incrimination and the right to a fair trial.  Defendants may invoke these rights while criminal charges against them are pending, but they may also invoke them after the court has issued a guilty verdict.  The most common way to do this is by requesting post-conviction relief.

Reasons Why Defendants Apply for Post-Conviction Relief

Post-conviction relief is when you ask the court that convicted you to revisit its decision about your conviction or your sentence.  It is analogous to asking a family court to modify your parenting plan because the one it issued when it finalized your divorce was unfair.  You can ask for post-conviction relief if any part of your conviction, your sentence, or the process leading up to your conviction constitutes a violation of your legal rights.

These are some situations where you might be eligible for post-conviction relief:

  • The court unnecessarily delayed your trial.
  • Your criminal defense lawyer pressured you into pleading guilty instead of thoroughly reviewing the evidence and going over all of the defenses that you might use at trial.
  • The judge made an unfair decision about the admissibility of a piece of evidence at your trial, and the inclusion or exclusion of this evidence caused the jury to wrongfully convict you.
  • After your conviction, you discovered new evidence that might change the outcome of your trial if a jury had an opportunity to hear it.
  • The law has changed since your trial. If you were tried now, it would be obvious to the jury that you have not broken any laws that are currently on the books.

In other words, to receive post-conviction relief, you must demonstrate that the judge, the prosecution, or even your own lawyer made a mistake that adversely affected the outcome of your case.

Post-Conviction Relief, Appeals, and Other Ways to Get Out of Jail Faster Than the Sentencing Judge Wants You To

If the court accepts your petition for post-conviction relief, then the court might dismiss your charges by vacating the judgment or setting it aside.  Another possible outcome is that the court will grant you a new trial.  If you want a new trial, you should argue in your motion for post-conviction relief that, even though the lawyers and the judge did everything right regarding the presentation of evidence at the trial, the jury reached the wrong decision.

If the court denies your motion for post-conviction relief, you have the option to appeal your conviction.  When you file an appeal, your aim is to persuade an appeals court that the trial court made an error, so that it will reverse the trial court’s decision.  If this happens, you will most likely need a new trial.

Even if you acknowledge that your conviction or your guilty plea was fair, you also have the option to appeal your sentence.  Furthermore, most sentences are not set in stone, and there are ways to reduce your prison time or probation term.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are considering applying for post-conviction relief.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.



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