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What You Should Know About PCRA

What You Should Know About PCRA

Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act also known as PCRA, is a legal mechanism that a petitioner can use to attack a criminal conviction against them.

A wrongful conviction can lead to an innocent person serving a life sentence in the state of Pennsylvania. It is important to know that your criminal case does not have to end after the jury’s verdict or after your sentencing.

However, PCRA petitions are extremely technical and most of the time, the defendant can only file one of them. An experienced PCRA lawyer can help you file a pcra petition to appeal the wrongful conviction.

Here are a few things you should know about PCRA.

1. You Can Receive a New Trial If Your Lawyer Was Ineffective

The Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act allows accused persons to challenge their convictions on the grounds of ineffective assistance of an attorney during trial or sentencing.

Ineffectiveness claims could include; failure of the attorney to properly investigate the case and call witnesses at trial, failure to object to errors and improper questioning from the prosecution and failure to hire an expert witness if needed for the defense. If your trial lawyer was ineffective and this led to prejudice on your part, then it’s possible to receive a new trial or sentencing.

2. You Can File A PCRA Petition Even If You Pleaded Guilty

You can file a PCRA petition if you were unlawfully induced to make a guilty plea even though you were innocent. However, these types of petitions are the most challenging. This is because most of the time, a guilty plea is rejected if the defendant seems not to know what he or she is doing.

The defendant also testifies under oath that he is content with the defense lawyer and he or she is guilty. Nonetheless, it is indeed possible to file a PCRA petition stating that the trial counsel was not effective in presenting mitigation factors during the sentencing.

PCRA petitions are very successful in cases where new evidence is discovered that could make a complete difference in the trial court. For example, an eyewitness who comes forward to testify that he saw someone else committing the crime would form a strong basis for overturning the guilty plea.  

3. There Is a Deadline for Filing A PCRA Petition

A PCRA petition must be filled while the accused person is still in prison serving their sentence. Secondly, the deadline for filing a petition was extended to one year following the discovery of new evidence.

Initially, petitioners had only sixty days from the time they discovered new evidence to file a PCRA petition. This made it very difficult for petitioners who were incarcerated in state prisons to meet these deadlines. On the 27th of October 2018, Governor Wolf signed the criminal justice reform bills into new laws. Senate bill 915 is fairer and provides a more reasonable period to file a petition.

4. PCRA Petition Can Be Granted If the Constitutional Violations Form a Significant Magnitude

You will qualify for a completely resetting trial if your constitutional rights were extremely violated to the point that your trial can no longer be trusted to determine if you were guilty or not. You will also qualify for a new trial if the sentence you were given was above the legal minimum.

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