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What is Post Conviction Relief (PCR)?
Post-conviction relief (PCR) is a process that allows a defendant to present additional evidence or raise further issues after they have been convicted of a criminal offense. Unfortunately, errors do occur in the criminal justice system and these errors can result in wrongful convictions. Like the appeals process, PCR provides a way for a defendant to raise and remedy any errors during their case.
PCR is different from a direct appeal. A direct appeal is filed with a higher appellate court. In an appeal, a defendant alleges that the trial court made a legal error and asks the appellate court to give a different decision. An appellate court cannot consider new evidence, it can only review the evidence that was before the trial court.
In contrast, a defendant applies to the trial court for PCR and it is often the trial judge who hears and decides the matter. A defendant can present new evidence and raise issues that cannot be fully investigated in an appeal, where there is no opportunity to hear witnesses.
A successful PCR motion may result in an order for a new trial, a change to the defendant's sentence, or some other relief for the defendant.
Possible Claims for PCR in California
The claims a defendant raises in their request for PCR will depend on the specific facts of their case. Examples of potential claims include the discovery of new evidence not available at the time of the trial and post-verdict changes to the law.
One of the most common bases for PCR is ineffective assistance of counsel, where a defendant alleges their attorney failed to represent them in a reasonably competent manner in violation of their Sixth Amendment rights.
When arguing ineffective assistance, a defendant may allege their counsel failed to:
- Investigate a case, including any potential defenses
- File necessary motions such as a motion to suppress evidence or a motion in limine
- Obtain expert witness assistance relevant to a defendant's defense
- Advise them of a plea offer made by the prosecution
- Correctly advise them in relation to a plea offer
- Interview and call available witnesses
- Object to improper evidence
- Object to improper argument
- Request proper jury instruction from the trial judge
- Object to an improper jury instruction
- Object to improper sentencing issues
- Seek a downward departure sentence (a sentence lower than the minimum guideline)
A defendant should seek legal advice as to the specific claims that may arise in their case.
How to Apply for Post Conviction Relief in Los Angeles
The time limit for filing a request for PCR is jurisdiction-dependent. However, a defendant usually has more time to file a PCR motion than a direct appeal. For this reason, it's common for a defendant to file a PCR motion after a direct appeal.
A PCR motion usually needs to include the details of the trial, the basis on which the defendant is seeking PCR, and the remedy they are seeking.
You don't have to face the criminal justice system alone. At Law Offices of Vivian N. Szawarc, we know the justice system can be intimidating and overwhelming, but we're here to help. Call 888-666-8820 or fill out a contact form to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our staff today.