From Leigh’s interview for the Masters of the Courtroom series on ReelLawyers.com.
Because so much can take place after the conclusion of your state trial that may still affect the outcome of your case, the time immediately following your conviction might be the most important part of your court case as a whole. It’s critical at this time to have a criminal defense lawyer with plenty of experience in state post-conviction procedures, because filing the correct appeals and post-trial motions can result in anything from significantly reduced sentences to overturned convictions.
Understanding the Post-Conviction Stage
Generally speaking, the time between when a jury convicts you of a crime and when you are formally sentenced—and sometimes extending even after sentencing—is referred to as the “post-conviction” or “post-trial” stage of your case. During this time, while the judge is working on determining an appropriate sentence, a skilled attorney will be working on a number of strategies to challenge errors or instances of negligence, and to lessen the impact of your conviction. These strategies may include direct appeal of your case and any of a number of post-trial motions and petitions for post-conviction remedies. The procedures differ from state to state, which is why your attorney should have specific experience in state post-conviction strategies within the state where your trial took place. An effective post-trial strategy can result in reduced or modified sentences, and in some cases, an overturning of your conviction and/or a new trial.
Post-Conviction in the State of Georgia
In the state of Georgia, your attorney has a number of post-conviction options available, any of which may have a direct impact on either the severity of your sentence or whether your conviction will be upheld. Here are a few examples:
- Direct appeal. Under Georgia law, a conviction in a Georgia state court can be appealed directly to the Georgia Court of Appeals (or to the Georgia Supreme Court, in murder cases). Your attorney will file written briefs and possibly present oral arguments to explain how errors or negligence have resulted in an unfair verdict or denied you due process. The higher courts may call for corrections in the case, or may choose to vacate the conviction if the case warrants.
- Motion for a new trial. Your attorney may petition the court to negate the results of your first trial and call for a new trial, either on the grounds that errors prevented you from receiving a fair trial, or upon the discovery of new evidence.
- Petition of habeas corpus. Typically filed after direct appeals have run their course (and only if you’re currently in jail), this petition is a claim that the state is holding you in violation of the law, usually citing errors in the case. If the judge agrees that there is significant doubt, he/she may order the jailer to bring you to court to review your incarceration. Regardless of your conviction, if it can be shown you’re being held illegally, the state must release you.
- Other post-sentencing motions. Even after you begin serving your sentence, your attorney may file additional motions on your behalf to have your sentence reduced. These may include a Motion to Modify Sentence (asking the judge to reduce your sentence) or a Motion to Void Correct Sentence (if your sentence exceeds what is allowed by state law).
Our State Post-Conviction Experience
It’s just as important to have a skilled defense attorney in your corner after you’re convicted of a state crime as it is before your trial begins. The attorneys of the Federal Criminal Law Center are highly experienced in state post-conviction proceedings in Georgia, and they know the best strategies to implement to improve your chances for a more positive outcome.