In California, a criminal conviction is not necessarily the end of your case. You may be able to appeal the ruling or pursue other post-conviction proceedings that could reduce your sentence or keep you out of jail entirely. This is an opportunity for you to assert your rights and protect your freedom. Don’t pass it up.
Getting a court to modify your sentence or overturn a conviction requires aggressive and skilled legal representation. A knowledgeable Los Angeles post-conviction attorney from The Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling will defend your rights and pursue justice for you.
A former trial attorney with the L.A. County Public Defender’s Office and now an award-winning criminal defense lawyer, firm founder Justin Sterling has secured positive results for clients accused of a wide range of crimes. Put his experience to work for you, too. Call or contact us today for a free consultation.
What is Post-Conviction Relief?
Post-conviction relief is the legal process that allows someone convicted of a crime to ask their sentence to be overturned, reduced, or modified. Post-conviction relief could involve appealing your original trial verdict, asking the court to change your sentence, or petitioning the governor to have your conviction lifted or reduced. Having your criminal records sealed or expunged after you’ve served your sentence also falls under post-conviction relief procedures.
Options for Post-Conviction Relief in California
Your options for post-conviction relief in California are based on the facts of your case, the charges against you, and certain other factors. Depending on the circumstances, potential options include:
- Motion to withdraw a plea – During your sentencing hearing after a conviction, you can file a motion to withdraw a guilty plea or no contest plea. If granted, your case will be sent back for trial or to negotiate a new plea agreement. Judges rarely grant these motions unless you demonstrate you received ineffective counsel from a former defense attorney, did not understand the charges against you, or did not know what you agreed to by taking a plea deal.
- Motion for a new trial – If you did not plead guilty and were convicted at trial, you can file a motion for a new trial. These motions are rarely granted unless you can point to some sort of error during the original trial, such as prosecutorial misconduct that influenced the case against you.
- Motion for resentencing – You can ask for resentencing if you are convicted of a crime. Most resentencing motions ask the courts to shorten a prison sentence or remove probationary restrictions. You may also ask for a felony charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor in certain circumstances.
- Early end to probation – While probation is preferable to being in jail, probation can still make it difficult for you to get a job or leave the state. If you completed some of your probation and met all the other conditions of your sentence (e.g., paid fines, taken classes, etc.), you can ask to have your probation terminated early.
- Petition for commutation – The governor can commute sentences in some cases. If your petition is successful, your sentence could be reduced or lifted.
- Exclusion from Megan’s List – People convicted of certain sex crimes must register as sex offenders, which can have life-changing repercussions. You may be able to have your name excluded from the sex offender registry if you meet certain conditions.
- Expungement – Some offenders can ask the court to expunge a criminal record after completing their probation sentence. Expungement seals a case, with some exceptions. The advantage of expungement is you do not have to tell potential employers or landlords about an expunged offense, which opens the door to life opportunities you may otherwise have been denied.
- Certificate of Rehabilitation – A Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) is a document where a judge affirms that you have been rehabilitated. A COR can improve your job prospects and make it easier to obtain a professional license after a conviction. It can also help your case if you petition the governor for a pardon.
- Sealing juvenile records – Juvenile criminal records may not be automatically sealed once you turn 18. A post-conviction lawyer can help with that.
- Conviction review – Certain California counties have procedures to review cases that may have resulted in wrongful convictions. An attorney can help you file a claim to have your case reviewed.
Am I Eligible for Post-Conviction Relief?
The options for post-conviction relief in California vary depending on the underlying crime. You could be eligible for some form of relief if you:
- Were not adequately informed of your constitutional rights
- Took a plea deal where the terms were not fully explained to you
- Received ineffective legal representation
- Were convicted on felony charges that could be reduced to a misdemeanor
- Were not sentenced to prison and have completed your probation
- Were convicted for certain cannabis-related crimes
If you are unsure whether your case qualifies for post-conviction relief, seek guidance from an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Can I Clear My Criminal Record?
The California CARE Act allows criminal records to be sealed if you meet certain conditions, such as:
- You were arrested but not charged with a crime.
- You were accused of a crime, but the charges were later dismissed.
- You were charged with a crime but completed a pre-trial diversionary program, such as a drug addiction and treatment program.
- You were charged with a crime but acquitted at trial.
Furthermore, certain offenders can also have a criminal conviction expunged from their records. You could be eligible if:
- You completed the terms of your probation.
- You were not incarcerated in state prison.
- No other criminal charges are pending.
- You did not violate the terms of your probation. If you broke them, expungement might still be possible with court approval.
How a Post-Conviction Attorney Can Help
You shouldn’t gamble your life and liberty by pursuing post-conviction relief alone. Court procedures in California are complicated and time-sensitive. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate the system and develop a strong argument for why you deserve relief. A post-conviction attorney will review your case to determine what forms of relief you may qualify for, file the necessary motions or petitions on your behalf, and guide you through any hearings or other steps as your case proceeds.
Contact a California Post-Conviction Lawyer Today
The Law Offices of Justin E. Sterling represents clients in Los Angeles and the surrounding communities. Our criminal defense law firm has a track record of securing excellent results for our clients, and we want to help you. Call or contact us now. The first consultation is free.