This is the next post in my series on requesting post-conviction relief in Arizona. My last post discussed the difference between a direct appeal and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus (otherwise known as post-conviction relief). This is an important difference to understand as many defendants have a misunderstanding as to when they may file for post-conviction relief. In this article I will discuss the process one faces when filing for post-conviction relief.
Arizona habeas corpus petitions must be filed within ninety days
A post-conviction petition (otherwise known as a Rule 32 PCR Petition) must be filed within ninety days after the Trial Judge enters a Judgement of Conviction. This means that one can use a post-conviction relief petition not only if they were found guilty at a trial, but also if they entered into a guilty plea. If the defendant appealed after being convicted then the time during which the case is on appeal will not count towards the 90 days. This short time frame means that the process, which is explained below, moves quickly and that one should contact a lawyer immediately.
The first step in preparing a Rule 32 petition, based on ineffective assistance of counsel, is for your criminal defense lawyer to fully analyze the Trial Court record. This includes a review of the trial transcripts, the transcripts of all hearings, reading all pleadings which were filed, analyzing evidence which was or was not admitted, etc. After completing a review of the record, and conducting any necessary investigation, your attorney will be able to argue as to what additional steps should have been taken on your behalf. The petition will then be filed with the Court. In order to be successful the petition must argue that 1) the attorney failed to live up to their responsibilities in a certain way and 2) if it were not for the failure that the defendant would not have been convicted.
Ninety days is not a great amount of time to complete the process described above. This is why, again, I suggest that Arizona defendants contact a lawyer immediately regarding post-conviction relief. In addition to Phoenix we represent defendants in other Maricopa County cities such as Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, Chandler, and Gilbert. We also assist Pima County residents in Tucson.
An Arizona Rule 32 petition will be heard by the Trial Court
After a Rule 32 petition is filed in Arizona then it will be decided by the Trial Court. This means that the same Court which entered the conviction is often the one to initially decide whether counsel was ineffective. This leaves many defendants with the belief that there is little reason to file for such relief. The truth, however, is that Judges are very protective of one’s right to effective counsel and that, even if the petition is denied, the denial may be taken up on appeal. In other words, you still have options if you feel you have been wrongfully convicted.