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Common Arguments to Overturn Convictions

Zealous Los Angeles Post-Conviction Attorney Aggressively Pursuing Relief on Behalf of Client Throughout Southern California

The writ of habeas corpus provides courts with tremendous power to grant relief to inmates who effectively have no other avenues of relief available to them. However, only certain arguments are recognized in a petition for writ of habeas corpus and inmates who raise ineligible claims risk wasting months or years of their time as well as jeopardizing their ability to raise meritorious claims in the future. Thus, it is essential for anyone considering a petition for writ of habeas corpus to understand which arguments can result in a court overturning a conviction. Read on to learn more about the most common arguments to overturn convictions.

At Power Trial Lawyers, Attorney Matthew Barhoma and his dedicated team of California criminal appeals lawyers have a successful track record of getting their clients into court and obtaining the relief they seek.

Types of Habeas Corpus Claims

While habeas corpus is an extremely powerful tool, it also has its limitations in that not all issues are cognizable through a petition for writ of habeas corpus. For example, violations of your search and seizure rights under the Fourth Amendment fall beyond the scope of habeas corpus relief. However, there are many other important legal principles that can result in the granting of relief. Some of the most common arguments to overturn convictions through a writ of habeas corpus include:

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Perhaps the most frequently raised issue in a petition for writ of habeas corpus is ineffective assistance of counsel. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall … have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” The Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean every criminal defendant is entitled to an effective lawyer. To prove ineffective assistance, a defendant must show (1) that their trial lawyer's performance fell below an "objective standard of reasonableness" and (2) "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different."

Juror Misconduct

The Sixth Amendment also provides the right to an “impartial jury.” Thus, if any facts come out after trial illustrating that a juror engaged in misconduct, it may give rise to a viable issue through a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

A Guilty Plea Was Not Knowing, Voluntary or Intelligent

Before a court allows someone to enter a guilty plea, the judge must ensure that the defendant’s plea is knowing, intelligent and voluntary. For example, if you did not understand the terms of the plea (or your trial lawyer failed to advise you accordingly), it can create a raiseable issue.

New Evidence

If new evidence surfaces that affects the propriety of a conviction, it may open the door to habeas relief. For example, if a key prosecution witness recants their testimony, explaining that they were coerced by police to give the statement, the courts have the power to overturn a conviction.

Changes in the Law

In certain situations, a court may grant habeas corpus relief to an inmate who was convicted of a crime (or subject to an enhanced sentence) based on laws that have since changed. However, not all new laws are retroactively applied. Typically, only those laws that prohibit the criminalization of a certain type of conduct or those that create a “Watershed” rule of criminal procedure are retroactive unless the new law explicitly states otherwise.

Notably, there are certain issues you cannot raise in a petition for writ of habeas corpus. While there are exceptions, a few of the claims that are not recognizable through a writ of habeas corpus include including:

  • Alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment,
  • Challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence, and
  • Any issues raised and rejected on direct appeal.
Consult with an Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Appeals and Habeas Corpus Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one is serving a long prison term as a result of a criminal conviction, Power Trial Lawyers can help. With decades of combined experience pursuing appellate and direct appeal relief, the knowledgeable California habeas corpus lawyers at Power Trial Lawyers have the understanding, dedication and practical know-how to bring your claims and bring them effectively. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Barhoma today, call 213-800-7664. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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