After a criminal conviction, you might feel as though you have no options to challenge the outcome, even when it seems unfair or unlawful. In fact, you can challenge a criminal conviction through a couple of means. Both direct appeal and post-conviction relief offer opportunities to overturn a conviction.
You should understand the differences between the two solutions.
The direct appeal
You file a direct appeal immediately after conviction and sentencing. The appeal goes to an appellate court. During the hearing, you have the opportunity to argue that the original criminal trial included errors, such as evidence being improperly admitted or the judge giving faulty jury instructions. Direct appeals focus on claimed legal errors and procedural defects in the trial itself.
You file a post-conviction relief petition after the denial of a direct appeal. These petitions do not rely on trial errors, but bring in new evidence or other information that was not available before. Reasons for seeking post-conviction relief include ineffective assistance of counsel, suppressed evidence by the prosecution, newly discovered evidence or changes in case law that could reverse a conviction. According to a 2022 study by the Urban Institute, over 20% of prisoners have valid innocence claims for post-conviction relief petitions.
As you can see, direct appeals address trial-specific errors or complications. Post-conviction relief, on the other hand, depends on presenting new information. As a result, post-conviction relief can sometimes achieve what direct appeals alone cannot. Consider these points as you explore the solutions available to you after your conviction.