After a conviction, it may seem as if the only option remaining is to serve the sentence that the judge orders. However, the judge’s orders are not always the final word in the case.
The American Bar Association explains that the law allows the defendant to challenge the ruling or the sentence if he or she has grounds to do so. There are a number of grounds to file a postconviction proceeding.
1. Violation of law
A conviction or sentence could violate the U.S. Constitution, federal law, state law or the state’s constitution in the state where the judge rendered the ruling, resulting in grounds to file for relief. Sometimes when laws change, people are able to seek relief for a conviction that is no longer illegal.
2. Constitutionally protected conduct
If the U.S. Constitution or state constitution states that the act for which the defendant underwent prosecution is conduct protected by law, there may be grounds to overturn the conviction. Also, if the state statute that the judge used to convict the defendant violates the U.S. Constitution, the defendant may file for relief.
3. New evidence
When additional evidence comes to light that the defendant’s legal team was not able to bring forward during the original trial, the court may vacate the original conviction or sentence.
4. Illegal sentence
While judges do have considerable latitude in determining a sentence, there are laws and guidelines. If a sentence exceeds the maximum or otherwise breaks from what the law authorizes, the defendant may file for postconviction relief.
5. Jurisdictional issues
Occasionally, the location or the type of court where the defendant is on trial does not have jurisdiction over that case, and this can give the defendant grounds to challenge the outcome.
The relief a person may seek varies depending on the details of the case.