PCRA Post Conviction Relief Act

Post Conviction Relief Appeal

For many, they think that once the jury comes back with a guilty verdict, that is the end of the road. However, a conviction is only the beginning of the post-conviction phase of a case. Post Conviction Relief Act lawyers at The McShane Firm have repeatedly battled convictions. We have freed the innocent. Even those who have been in prison for decades, we have helped.

Case exampleThe Story of James Hugney Sr. The McShane Firm worked to get his Life Without The Possibility of Parole sentence overturned after he spent over 35 years in prison

After a conviction, you have the right to a direct appeal. But what about after your direct appeal has failed? In certain circumstances, you can file a petition under the Post Conviction Relief Act. Another word for it is a PCRA petition.

When selecting which attorney to hire, please consider:

  • Can you call anytime and talk to a live person?
  • Do they offer payment plans with no credit checks?
  • Will your attorney be attentive and explain what’s going on?

At The McShane Firm, we answer yes to all of these questions. We strive to provide you with a great customer service experience during this tough time.

What types of cases fall into the PCRA?

The convicted person can use the PCRA when there was:

  • a violation of the Pennsylvania or United States Constitution,
  • ineffective assistance of counsel,
  • an illegal sentence,
  • newly-discovered evidence,
  • a guilty plea unlawfully induced, or
  • a proceeding in which the court did not have jurisdiction.

What are some examples of PCRA?

A violation of the Pennsylvania or United States Constitution

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Muniz recently held that the sex offender registration requirements violate the ex post facto clause of the Constitution. That means that our legislature cannot increase sentences for crimes already committed. They cannot create a law that retroactively punishes folks beyond what existed at the time of the offense. If your sentence changed in violation of this rule, that is an example of a violation of the Constitution that would entitle you to file a PCRA petition.

IAC or Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel most often comes into play when your trial attorney did not do something they should have done. This includes failing to:

  • use an alibi witness known to the lawyer;
  • using character witnesses;
  • object to evidence coming into trial that should not have come in for the jury or the judge to hear;
  • file a pre-trial suppression motion to keep some sort of evidence out of trial, such as an illegal search of your person, car, or house;
  • investigate the witnesses and find admissible credibility issues;
  • use expert witnesses as to some key issue;
  • seek Brady or Giglio material
  • file appeals on time.

What is The McShane Difference?

  • We take time to understand your personal needs and goals. Then we cater our legal strategy to fit you.
  • We care about you. We listen and return phone calls. We will take time to explain things so you are not left anxious in the dark.
  • We will make this as easy as possible. We will try to minimize the number of times you have to be in court which means less disruption of your work and family life.

Does this sound like what you are looking for in an attorney? If yes, then take the next step and call (717) 657-3900.

If your attorney should have done something and didn’t, you may be able to claim ineffective assistance of counsel. However, there are other requirements to proving ineffective assistance of counsel than just showing they did something incorrectly. Therefore, an experienced attorney is necessary to establish all those requirements to put forth an effective PCRA claim for ineffective assistance of counsel.

An illegal sentence

We don’t see this type of case often. It can though. For example, a judge sentenced you for a simple assault (mutual fight or scuffle) charge, the maximum sentence is one year. If the court sentenced you to serve one month to two years in jail, you can file a PCRA petition. This is an illegal sentence. The sentence was more than the legal maximum.

Newly-discovered evidence

Newly-discovered evidence most often comes about when a witness recants or changes their testimony, or when a new witness comes forward with new evidence. You can file a PCRA petition based off of this new evidence. You must show you exercised due diligence in discovering this new evidence, though. That is the job of an experienced attorney to help you prove you did everything you could in locating this new evidence.

Unlawfully induced guilty plea

An unlawfully induced guilty plea happens in a couple of ways. Most often this claim is combined with an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. We typically see that the trial attorney did communicate with his or her client. For example, the attorney did not inform the accused of a defense that could be used at trial. In another scenario, the lawyer did not give the client all information regarding the charges or witnesses.

Lack of jurisdiction

Again, this one is not that frequent Courts often do not act unless they have jurisdiction. For a court to have jurisdiction, the accused must have did the illegal act in that county. Let’s say you were pulled over in Dauphin County. However, you were speeding only in Cumberland County. If the cop charges you in Dauphin County, the judge has to dismiss or transfer the case to Cumberland County. Cumberland County is the only county with jurisdiction in that example. However, in this day and age of the internet and with internet crimes, a question of jurisdiction can come up.

PCRA Deadlines to Note

A PCRA petition is due one year after the conviction becomes final.

Our Clients are entitled to a Bill of Rights which states:

  • Our clients have the right to expect, we will be proactive in communication. You will hear it from us first. We will return all phone calls, texts and emails promptly.
  • Our clients have the right to expect plain speaking, straight shooting. No B. S.
  • Our clients have the right to expect us to do it right the first time, every time.
  • Our clients have the right to expect us to be on time and professionally prepared for all court appearances, and all meetings.
  • Our clients have the right to expect that they will be fully informed at all times.

This is our promise to you. Call today to get us on your side: (717) 657-3900.

What does this mean?

If you filed a direct appeal, a PCRA petition is due approximately one year after the Superior Court issued its decision. Let’s say you filed an appeal. The Superior Court decision ruled on March 19, 2020. If you do not take any further steps, such as filing a petition for re-argument or a petition for allowance of appeal, you would have to file a PCRA petition by March 18, 2021. In another example, if you did not file a direct appeal, you must file a PCRA petition approximately one year and one month after the sentence. If the Court sentenced you on March 19, 2020, and you did not appeal, ou must file a PCRA petition by April 18, 2021. In some certain circumstances such as if you appeal to the Supreme Court of the Untied States, that filing is beyond one year.

Other considerations for PCRA

There are multiple other hurdles that must be met for a PCRA petition to be heard in the courts. As an example, the claims cannot be previously litigated, or the claim could be waived for failing to raise it at a point it could have been raised.

Previously litigated claims are areas of your case that the Superior Court already examined on your direct appeal. You or your lawyer can waive a claim by not preserving it (raising it) at the right time. Ineffective assistance of counsel may excuse waiver in some cirucmstances.

The McShane Firm, LCC prides itself on knowing the ins and outs of the Post-Conviction Relief Act. Call (717) 657-3900 right now. We will help.

Hiring the wrong lawyer can be a very costly mistake. It may even cost you your freedom.

Tragically, judges and juries frequently find folks guilty in court not because the evidence proves it, but because an incompetent lawyer failed to provide them with a proper defense. It can happen in any kind of case: from the simplest DUI to the most serious felony. And if it’s happened to you, you may wonder if you have any recourse against a system that has failed you.

However, the good news is, you actually do under certain circumstances. Under Pennsylvania law, you can claim Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, If you prove your case, your conviction(s) may be overturned with the opportunity for a new trial. Most importantly, if you’ve been found guilty and are facing serious penalties because of someone else’s mistake, this kind of second chance is priceless. You may be able to avoid fines, a criminal record and even jail time. So this time around, it’s crucial that you make right decisions to make that second chance work for you.

A Second Chance

If you are able to prove your attorney provided “ineffective assistance” by showing that his or her performance did not meet an “objective standard of reasonableness,” and that there is “a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different,” your conviction may be overturned. Which means that if you can prove that your lawyer’s actions and choices were bad, and that there is a good chance you would have had a different result with a different choice in strategy, you may get a new trial.

Will the government give up?

As you might imagine, getting to that point of the government throwing in the towel is not easy. Once the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania convicts you, they will not give up that conviction without a very unfair fight. To fight back effectively, you need the best possible lawyer for the job. We are those lawyers who will fight for you.

Additional suggested reading: