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Philadelphia PCRA Petition Attorneys
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    Philadelphia PCRA Petition Attorneys

    A criminal defendant has the right to file a direct appeal after being found guilty. But what happens when all your direct appeal options fail? Our team can help you explore the Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA).

    A PCRA petition is a way of initiating a collateral appeal after being convicted of a crime. An appeal under the PCRA is more limited and may only apply in specific circumstances. Due process violations, prosecutorial misconduct, and Brady violations are common reasons behind PCRA petitions. You must meet strict eligibility criteria to file a PCRA petition. Not only must you meet specific criteria, but you may only file for a specific set of circumstances or legal errors. If the reason you want to file a petition is not included in the statute, you should explore other options with your lawyer. Typically, you must submit your PCRA petition within 1 year of the day the judgment against you becomes final. If your petition is successful, you might get a new trial.

    For a free initial case review, call our PCRA petition attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.

    What is a PCRA Petition, and Why Would I Need to File One in Philadelphia?

    The Post-Conviction Relief Act in Pennsylvania is designed to help convicted defendants appeal their convictions, but only under very limited circumstances. What separates PCRA petitions from direct appeals is that the reason behind a PCRA petition might not have to do with legal errors made during your trial. PCRA petitions often address issues not directly connected with your case but instead focus on broader areas of law. For example, retroactive changes in laws that affect your case after your conviction may be grounds for a PCRA petition.

    Defendants file for various reasons. A common example is a Brady violation, which occurs when the police or prosecutors withhold evidence from the defense that might have changed the trial’s outcome. For example, suppose the prosecutor turns over evidence that the defendant’s fingerprints were found at the crime scene. However, suppose that prosecutors withheld evidence of another suspect’s fingerprints also found at the crime scene. This is a serious violation of a doctrine from a case called Brady and can be addressed in a PCRA petition. More reasons to file are discussed in greater detail below.

    Remember, PCRA petitions are less typical than direct appeals and are often far more complex. Defendants often exhaust all their direct appeal options before moving on to PCRA petitions. Talk to our PCRA petition attorneys about your case to determine if you have a strong reason to file a petition.

    Eligibility to File a PCRA Petition in Philadelphia

    There are important rules to follow when filing a PCRS petition. Not all convicted defendants are eligible, and you cannot file a petition simply because you are out of other options. First, convicted defendants must meet eligibility criteria. Second, your reasons for filing must meet certain criteria.

    Criteria for the Petitioner

    Eligibility criteria for petitioners are spelled out under 42 Pa.C.S. § 9543(a)(1). Under the law, a petitioner must first be convicted of a crime. You cannot file a PCRA petition proactively.

    After being convicted, you must meet one of the following four requirements. First, you must be currently serving a prison term or out on probation or parole. Second, you must be awaiting the death penalty. Third, you must be serving a sentence that has to expire before you start serving the sentence you wish to dispute. Fourth and finally, you must have completed your sentence and seek relief based on DNA evidence for post-conviction DNA testing.

    Remember, you need to meet only one of these four criteria.

    Criteria for Relief

    If you meet the above requirements, talk to your lawyer about the grounds for your petition. A PCRA petition may only be filed for very specific reasons. According to 42 Pa.C.S. § 9543(a)(2), your conviction must have resulted from one of the following seven scenarios.

    You can claim you had ineffective assistance of counsel, meaning your attorney did not provide adequate help during your criminal trial. Your attorney’s failings must have been so bad as to undermine the trial process, preventing a fair verdict. This is a fairly common reason behind many PCRA petitions.

    You may claim a constitutional violation that undermined the truth-determining process. This may be a violation of the Pennsylvania or United States Constitution.

    If you believe you were unlawfully induced into pleading guilty or accepting a plea agreement, you can file a petition. This might involve coercion or deception.

    You can claim you were wrongly blocked from submitting a valid direct appeal by government officials.

    You may file a PCRA petition if there is now exculpatory evidence that was unavailable during your trial. The exculpatory evidence must be something that would have changed the outcome of your trial.

    You can file a petition if your sentence exceeds the maximum allowed by law and sentencing guidelines.

    Finally, you may file a petition if you were convicted in a proceeding in a tribunal without jurisdiction.

    When is the Right Time to Submit Your PCRA Petition in Philadelphia

    Like many other legal petitions and filings, you must submit your PCRA petition before the statutorily imposed deadline. According to 42 Pa.C.S. § 9545(b), your petition must be filed within 1 year of the date the judgment becomes final. Exactly when your judgment is final depends on a few different factors.

    Your judgment might be final on the date your sentence is handed down. However, if you file a direct appeal, the date of your final judgment may be pushed back. Your judgment may become final once all your direct appeals options have been exhausted. This might be a few years after your sentence, depending on how long it takes to complete the direct appeals process.

    There are special circumstances where the deadline may be extended. First, you might have additional time if you could not raise a claim before the deadline due to interference from the government that violated the Constitution of Pennsylvania or the United States.

    You may also have more time if the facts your PCRA petition are based on were previously unknown and could not have been discovered until after the deadline expired.

    Finally, the deadline might be extended if the right asserted in your petition was not recognized by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or the Supreme Court of the United States until after the filing deadline.

    Speak to Our Philadelphia PCRA Petition Attorneys

    For a free initial case review, call our PCRA petition attorneys at The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at (215) 302-0171.