What is the PCRA?

If you lose your criminal case, you are wrongly convicted, or regret the decision to plead guilty, it doesn’t have to be the end. You can appeal the verdict if facing enhanced sentencing involving many years in jail or hefty fines. Criminal defense and injury lawyers in Philadelphia can provide legal counsel and representation through the process.

One way to do this is through Pennsylvania’s Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA). The law allows convicted defendants to correct sentencing errors and violations for a better outcome. The process is complex, and it can be challenging to navigate the requirements if you don’t fully understand criminal law in Philadelphia.

A successful PCRA petition requires an in-depth understanding of intricate legal issues and the skill to construct a compelling legal argument. Besides, there’s only one opportunity to file the petition, and you must get it right the first time. So, you should enlist the help of legal experts with knowledge of criminal defense.

What is the Deadline for Filing a PCRA Petition?

Navigating the deadline requirements of filing a PCRA petition can be challenging, given that you must meet the requirements. In Philadelphia, you only have one year before your judgment becomes final, or you lose your right to appeal the verdict. PCRA lawyers in Philadelphia can work with you to ensure you file the petition within the time limits.

Previously, defendants could only file a PCRA petition if they were still serving their sentence, whether probation or incarceration. However, the rules changed, and defendants can now file a petition even when not in prison or on probation.

Are There Exceptions to the PCRA Deadline?

The law provides some exceptions to the one-year filing deadline for the PCRA. For your case to be exempted, you must prove that:

  • The failure to file the petition in time was due to interference by government officials (excluding defense counsel) with the claim presentation, which violated the Constitution of the United States or the Commonwealth. In such a case, you must file the petition 60 days after the deadline.
  • The facts upon which the claim was predicated were unknown to you, and there was no way to ascertain them by exercising due diligence.
  • The right you seek to assert is a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court after the deadline.

These matters can be complex, so consider retaining aggressive Philadelphia PCRA lawyers to help you. They know how the system works and how they can help you beat the deadline challenges.

What Are the Requirements for Filing a PCRA?

You can file a PCRA petition if you meet the following eligibility criteria as outlined in 42 PA.C.S. § 9543:

  • You were convicted of a crime under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • You’re serving a prison or probation sentence, which must expire before you commence serving the disputed sentence
  • You’re awaiting the execution of a sentence of death for a crime
  • You have completed your probation, parole, or imprisonment sentence
  • You seek relief related to post-conviction DNA testing

In addition to the eligibility requirements, you can only seek post-conviction relief if your case meets specific standards.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

The most common basis for filing a PCRA petition is ineffective counsel representation. Some examples of situations that may constitute ineffective counsel assistance are:

  • Not adequately investigating the facts of the case
  • Failure to interview critical witnesses or call them to testify
  • Not objecting to improper evidence or testimony
  • Not filing motions or taking relevant legal action within stipulated de
  • Not objecting or appealing legal errors made by the judge

Being convicted doesn’t mean your criminal defense and injury lawyers in Philadelphia didn’t effectively defend you. Legal representation has many considerations, and whether an attorney failed in their duty to represent you is open to different interpretations. Let skilled PCRA attorneys in Philadelphia evaluate your case and determine if you qualify for a PCRA petition.

Discovery of New Evidence

For evidence to be considered new, it must have been unobtainable at the time of trial and only recently discovered. You must prove that the new evidence will make a difference in the outcome of your case.

In addition to new evidence, there could be a change in constitutional law that could impact your conviction or sentence. These two circumstances can be challenging to determine or prove unless you have the legal assistance of skilled Philadelphia PCRA attorneys.

Other conditions under which you could file a PCRA petition are:

  • You were given a sentence that exceeded the maximum penalty imposed by law
  • You were illegally induced to plead guilty while you were innocent
  • There was a violation of the Constitution that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place
  • You were tried in a court without jurisdiction over your case

You cannot file a petition unless your case meets one of these conditions if the issue has previously been litigated, or if you waived your right to file a petition.

A Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney Helping You Challenge Your Conviction

If you or your loved one were wrongfully convicted, you could challenge the verdict to protect your rights. However, don’t wait until it’s too late; you only have a one-year deadline to file your PCRA petition. Skilled PCRA lawyers in Philadelphia can evaluate your case to determine if your case meets the conditions for the petition.

The criminal defense lawyers at the Liberty Law Team can take up your case and fight for your rights until the end. We provide aggressive yet compassionate legal representation for clients facing criminal charges or wrongly convicted. Call us at (215) 826-3314 to schedule a FREE case evaluation.