Being convicted of a criminal offense may seem like the end of the world, but there are some important options for post-conviction petitions that may allow convicted defendants to pursue a reversal of their conviction, a release from prison, a reduced sentence, and/or other forms of relief. If you have been found guilty of a crime in California and you believe that your constitutional rights were violated in some way that deprived you of a fair trial, or if you believe you may be eligible for a reduction in your jail or prison sentence due to an excessive original penalty or recent changes in the law, contact the legal team at Pat Ford Appeals right away to discuss the post-conviction petition options that may be available to you under the law. Appeals attorney Pat Ford understands that a criminal case doesn’t end with a conviction and he is dedicated to defending the rights of those convicted of criminal offenses and sentenced in California, especially those who have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
California Post-Conviction Petition Lawyers
The California criminal justice system is intended to investigate and prosecute criminal offenses that occur at the state level, and fairly and justly punish those who are guilty of committing such crimes, while protecting the constitutional rights of the accused and convicted. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system doesn’t always work the way it is meant to, and as a result, defendants in California are sometimes wrongfully convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, unlawfully imprisoned in violation of their constitutional rights, or sentenced to terms of imprisonment that are excessive or overly-punitive.
If you have been convicted of a crime you didn’t commit in California, either due to an unjust outcome in your criminal case or because of some other legal error, and you are serving a sentence in jail or prison as a result, you may qualify for post-conviction relief through the criminal appeals process or a habeas corpus petition. Or, if you are currently serving a jail or prison sentence that is unreasonably harsh, or the law has changed in such a way that you are now eligible for a reduction in your sentence, you may be able to petition to have your jail or prison sentence reduced. At Pat Ford Appeals, we fight for the rights of those who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes or unlawfully imprisoned in California, and for those who have been sentenced to excessive or unreasonably harsh terms of imprisonment, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that justice is served in your case.
What is a Post-Conviction Petition?
A post-conviction petition is a petition that seeks some kind of specific remedy from the court, usually a reversal of a criminal conviction, a release from prison or a reduction in a jail or prison sentence. There are several different types of post-conviction relief available to convicted defendants in California, including criminal appeals, writ of habeas corpus petitions, commutation, and SB 1437 and AB 2942 petitions.
Appealing Your Conviction
If you were recently convicted of a state or federal crime, you may be able to appeal the conviction and/or prison sentence, which means you can ask a higher court to review the trial court’s decision in your case. During the appeals process, the appellate court examines the trial record from the criminal case to determine whether any legal errors were made during the trial proceedings that were prejudicial, meaning they affected the outcome of the case. If any such errors are found, the appellate court may overturn the criminal conviction, reduce the convicted defendant’s sentence or grant a new trial. There are many different reasons for which you may choose to appeal your conviction and/or sentence, including the following:
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
- Unreasonably harsh sentence not supported by the facts or the law
- Insufficient evidence to support a conviction
- Improper admission or exclusion of evidence
- Juror misconduct
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Violation of your constitutional rights by law enforcement
If the criminal conviction you wish to appeal was for a misdemeanor crime, you would be required to file your appeal in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court within 30 days from the date of the trial court’s ruling. If the conviction was for a felony crime, you would file your appeal in the California Court of Appeal within 60 days from the date of the trial court’s ruling. For both misdemeanor and felony convictions, if you lose the appeal at the California Court of Appeal level, the next step in the appeals process would be to request to have your case reviewed by the California Supreme Court, which is the highest court in California. Decisions made by the Supreme Court are binding on all other California state courts, which means the appellate review process ends with the Supreme Court’s ruling, whatever that may be.
If the conviction you wish to appeal was for a federal criminal offense, you would file your appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, and if that appeal was unsuccessful, with the Supreme Court of the United States.
Filing a Habeas Corpus Petition
Another type of post-conviction petition available to convicted defendants in California is a habeas corpus petition. Habeas corpus is a Latin term that translates to “produce the body” or “you have the body,” and a habeas corpus petition is a petition filed by a California state or federal prisoner who believes he or she has been wrongfully imprisoned. The purpose of a habeas corpus petition is to seek a specific remedy from the court, such as a release from prison, relief from a prison sentence that is unconstitutional, or a change in the conditions of imprisonment. If granted, a petition for a state or federal writ of habeas corpus requires the custodian of a prisoner to bring the prisoner before the court to determine whether the prisoner’s incarceration is lawful.
In most cases, a writ of habeas corpus petition is a last resort for prisoners who have failed to overturn their conviction on appeal or for whom the deadline for appeals has passed, which is why, if you are filing a habeas corpus petition, you need the assistance of an experienced California criminal appeals attorney who can ensure that the strongest arguments in your favor are presented in a persuasive manner to the court. When you hire Pat Ford Appeals, attorney Pat Ford will review your case to determine what grounds there might be for a successful habeas corpus petition, such as:
- Conviction under unconstitutional law
- Discovery of new evidence that points towards innocence
- Unconstitutional conditions of imprisonment
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Juror misconduct
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
- Court did not have jurisdiction over the defendant
- Prisoner has been kept in prison past the point of release
- Evidence was improperly admitted or excluded at trial
Prisoners in the California state prison system who believe they are being unlawfully detained can file an appeal and write a petition for a state writ of habeas corpus to have the court issue a ruling on whether their imprisonment is lawful. There are a number of possible outcomes that can result from a habeas corpus petition in California, including a potential release from prison, a reduction in your prison sentence or a change in inhumane or unconstitutional conditions of imprisonment.
Federal Writs of Habeas Corpus
A federal writ of habeas corpus is a legal remedy available to state and federal prisoners who wish to challenge their imprisonment on the basis of a legal or factual error made by the court. Prisoners serving a sentence in federal prison for a federal offense who object to their imprisonment can petition the court for a federal writ of habeas corpus to rule on the legality of their incarceration. Prisoners serving a sentence in the California state prison system for a state crime can also file a habeas corpus petition in federal court if their state writ of habeas corpus petition is unsuccessful and there are constitutional violations at issue.
In criminal law, a commutation is the process of reducing a sentence or criminal punishment. Individuals who have been found guilty of a criminal offense and are currently serving a jail or prison sentence in California can file a petition to have the governor commute, or reduce, their sentence. A commutation does not reverse or change a criminal conviction, nor does it restore any civil rights the individual lost as a result of the conviction, it only reduces or eliminates the sentence a prisoner is serving as a result of the conviction. Any person convicted of a criminal offense in California can apply for a commutation, with some exceptions, and most prisoners apply for commutation in order to get out of jail or prison immediately, to get a parole hearing before they would otherwise be eligible for parole, or to commute a death sentence to a life sentence.
SB 1437 and AB 2942 Petitions
Senate Bill 1437, which took effect on January 1, 2019, effectively eliminates California’s felony-murder law, which allowed accomplices to felony crimes to be held responsible for the deaths of victims that occurred during the course of those crimes, even if the accomplices weren’t directly responsible for the killings. As a result, more than 800 prisoners convicted under the felony murder law and serving time in prison may be able to petition for a reduction in their sentence. Similarly, Assembly Bill 2942, passed in 2018, allows prosecutors in California to re-examine past sentences and, in cases where the sentence being served is no longer in the interest of justice, recommend a sentence reduction.
Why You Should Hire an Appeals Attorney
Whether you are attempting to appeal your criminal conviction or filing some other post-conviction petition, you are doing so on the grounds that it would be a violation of your constitutional rights to keep you in custody. The process of appealing a conviction, filing a habeas corpus petition or pursuing some other post-conviction petition is different than the traditional criminal court process in California, and it is in your best interest to enlist the help of an experienced California lawyer who specializes in criminal appeals. A good appeals attorney will scour every detail of your trial record to identify any errors in the law or legal procedure that may have affected the outcome of your case, or any conditions that may make you eligible for a reduced sentence, and present these errors to the court as evidence in support of your post-conviction petition.
At Pat Ford Appeals, we are committed to pursuing relief on behalf of those who have been wrongfully convicted or imprisoned in California, and we will fight to right whatever wrong led to your unjust conviction and/or incarceration. This may involve misconduct on the part of the prosecution or jury, some error in judgment made by the judge during trial or sentencing, or your lack of effective assistance of counsel at trial, among other possible grounds for a post-conviction petition. Attorney Pat Ford has more than 30 years of experience in California criminal defense, appeals and other matters relating to post-conviction relief, during which time he has handled some of the toughest criminal cases. Pat Ford knows what it takes to file a successful petition for post-conviction relief, and whatever the circumstances of your case, he can help you get the best possible outcome.
Contact Pat Ford Appeals for Legal Help
As you can see, a conviction isn’t necessarily the be all and end all of a criminal case. The U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of California provide important protections for defendants in criminal cases, including for those who have been wrongfully convicted and/or imprisoned in violation of their constitutional rights, and it is our primary objective at Pat Ford Appeals to uphold these laws and defend our clients’ rights and best interests. If you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime you didn’t commit, subjected to an excessive prison sentence, or unlawfully detained in California past the point at which you should have been released, you can challenge your conviction, sentence and/or incarceration by filing an appeal with an appellate court, a writ of habeas corpus petition, or an SB 1437 or AB 2942 petition, or by applying for a commutation. At Pat Ford Appeals, we have decades of experience assisting clients with post-conviction petitions, and we are prepared to put our expertise to work for you.