If you have exhausted the appeals process for your case, the next step is to seek post-conviction relief (PCR).
However, using this procedure to prove your innocence can be a complex undertaking that requires the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney.
Appeals vs. PCR
The appeals process addresses legal mistakes. However, PCR applies to violations of either the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure 930.31 or the United States Constitution. Examples of violations include changes in the law, new evidence or errors the defense was not previously aware of.
Post-conviction Hearing Act
Motions to reduce or correct a legal sentence exist under the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 924 through 930.8. The convicting court is the site to apply for the Post-conviction Hearing Act remedy. This is not a post-sentencing phase of an original case but rather an independent civil action. Newly discovered evidence that the defendant is innocent is grounds for relief if the conviction was a felony, DNA evidence was obtained in accordance with authorized procedures and the evidence showing innocence is convincing.
In a non-capital case, the limit in which to seek state post-conviction relief is two years from the date the conviction and sentence become final. However, there are three exceptions to the statute of limitations:
- The facts behind the claim were not known to the petitioner or his attorney
- a final appellate court ruling established an unknown interpretation of constitutional law that is retroactively applicable to the case
- the application filing took place on or before October 1, 2001, the application date being within three years after final conviction and sentence
The success of post-conviction relief leans toward the state rather than the person who applies. A defense attorney can sort out the benefits and drawbacks of pursuing this kind of relief depending on the circumstances that affect the potential applicant.