A Haddonfield Criminal Defense Attorney Representing Individuals Seeking Post-Conviction Relief
Being convicted and sentenced for a crime that you didn’t commit is devastating. It can cause even the strongest defendants to lose all hope. It can be even more disheartening if you’ve appealed the result and lost.
However, there is some good news. If you believe that you or someone you love has been wrongly convicted of a crime in New Jersey, you may still be able to get the conviction overturned. You can file an application for post-conviction relief under New Jersey Rule 3:22.
New Jersey criminal defense attorney Matthew Portella works with defendants who believe they have been wrongfully convicted to help them get the justice they deserve. With 25 years of experience, he knows the law and how to navigate the legal process and can help you understand your options. If you would like to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation, call us at (856) 310-9800 or contact us online.
Post-Conviction Relief Applications Are Different From Appeals
It’s important to understand that a post-conviction relief application is not the same as an appeal. Generally speaking, appeals pertain to matters of the law — either the law was incorrectly interpreted or misapplied in your case. Post-conviction relief applications, on the other hand, argue that you have the state has violated your rights under either the New Jersey state constitution or the United States Constitution.
Another difference is that you have to file an appeal almost immediately after your conviction. For a post-conviction relief application, you generally have up to five years to file from the date the court sentenced you.
Despite the fact that you are claiming a constitutional violation of your rights has occurred, you do not file your post-conviction relief application with an appeal court or in a federal court. Instead, you file your application with the trial court that heard your original case, and the same judge may even decide the fate of your application.
We should emphasize that appeals and post-conviction relief applications serve very different purposes. You should not forgo your right to appeal because you have five years to file your relief application. Many defendants only file their applications after they have exhausted their right to appeal.
Grounds for Post-Conviction Relief
- Substantial denial of either your state or federal constitutional rights;
- The court lacked jurisdiction over your case;
- The sentence imposed by the court exceeded the sentence allowed by law;
- Any other basis for a habeas corpus petition; or
- Ineffective assistance of counsel due to failure to file an appeal.
This may seem fairly straightforward, but this is a very complicated area of the law that requires in-depth knowledge of the court rules, the legal precedents, and court procedures in order to prevail.
What Happens if You Prevail on an Application for Post-Conviction Relief
When you file an application for post-conviction relief, you are essentially arguing that the judgment rendered in your case is wrong and significant modifications are necessary in order to restore your rights. After the hearing, and careful consideration of the law and the evidence presented, the judge has broad authority to order the following:
- That your case be retried
- Modification of your sentence
- Require re-arraignment
- Modify the conditions of your custody
- Any other necessary measures
Obviously, the best possible outcome is for your conviction to be overturned and your case is reset for trial. You may be able to then prevail at trial or persuade the prosecution to accept a more favorable plea agreement.
Examples of When a Post-Conviction Relief Application May Be Worthwhile
An application for post-conviction relief is designed to protect your rights throughout the criminal justice process. As a result, it isn’t limited solely to violations of your rights that occurred at trial—it also applies to violations that occurred at the investigative stage and at any time leading up to your conviction.
One of the most commonly cited grounds for relief applications is ineffective assistance of counsel. In this instance, you are alleging that your attorney made unreasonable mistakes that led to your conviction. Your attorney’s failures were tantamount to not having an attorney at all, which is in violation of the Sixth Amendment.
Here are some other examples of where you may be able to prevail on a post-conviction relief application:
- You were not advised of your Miranda rights when you were arrested.
- The police did not have probable cause to arrest you.
- The police used coercive tactics were during interrogation.
- You were required to incriminate yourself in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
- The judge sentenced you to prison for a period of time in excess of the maximum sentence provided by law.
- If you are not a citizen, your attorney did not advise you that a conviction could result in being deported.
- The court did not inform you that you would be required to register as a sex offender.
- The court did not have jurisdiction over your case
- You were not advised of your rights when you entered a guilty plea.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you believe that your rights were violated, the best thing you can do is to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The first thing they will likely do is examine your entire case and any other convictions in order to identify violations.
An attorney can also help you navigate the application and file the necessary documents. The process for filing the application is very detailed and specific. You do not want to waste your opportunity by failing to comply with the court’s procedures and having your petition dismissed on those grounds.
Your attorney can also help you formulate the best possible arguments to persuade the judge to grant your application and overturn your conviction. This requires in-depth knowledge of the law and experience to know which arguments are likely to be successful, but also what makes your case unique.
Call Our Haddonfield Criminal Defense Attorney
If you believe that you or a loved one were wrongfully convicted, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible—this may be your last chance to get your conviction set aside or your sentence reduced.
Criminal defense attorney Matthew Portella brings his knowledge, experience, and dedication to every case he handles and will give your case the attention it deserves. Call us today at (856) 310-9800 or contact us online in order to schedule a free consultation and discuss how we can help you.