Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petitions are often filed in Philadelphia criminal cases. A defendant who was convicted after losing at trial may file a direct appeal. After an unsuccessful appeal, the defendant may consider a PCRA petition. Direct appeals and PCRA petitions are entirely different and distinct from each other. This article discusses PCRA petitions. Get information about direct appeals in Philadelphia criminal cases.
In order to file a petition, the defendant must comply with both the PCRA (Act) and Chapter 9 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Act lays out the substantive requirements, such as:
- when a petition may be filed,
- what claims are allowed, and
- time deadlines.
The Rules of Criminal Procedure govern the filing, docketing and hearing procedures.
PCRA Petitions – The Basics
PCRA petitions may only be filed when specific statutory requirements are met. The most important requirement is the time deadline of 1 year. The petition must be filed within 1 year of the date the judgement becomes final. See Section 9545(a).
Therefore, in a Philadelphia criminal case where the defendant was convicted and did not file an appeal, the PCRA petition must be filed within 1 year of the date the conviction. If an appeal was filed, the PCRA petition must be filed within 1 year the date of the final disposition of the appeal, i.e., denial of the appeal.
This time deadline is jurisdictional in nature. This means that per the Act, a PCRA court (Court of Common Pleas) may not even entertain a PCRA petition unless the petitioner can prove compliance with the time deadline. There are some limited exceptions to the PCRA’s 1 year rule. However, since time is of the essence, it’s crucial to speak to a criminal appeals lawyer immediately if you are interested in filing a PCRA petition.
Who Can File a PCRA Petition?
In order to file a PCRA petition after a criminal conviction in Philadelphia, the petitioner must have been convicted of a crime. In addition, one of the following three conditions must be met:
- the petitioner is currently in prison for the crime/charge being contested,
- the petitioner is on death row, or
- the petitioner is serving a sentence for another crime and must complete that sentence before serving the sentence for the crime/charge being contested.
What Claims May Be Raised?
Per the Act, the petitioner is allowed to raise seven claims which are specified in Section 9543. Click here for a discussion of these PCRA claims. The most common claims are ineffective assistance of counsel, followed by newly discovered evidence. Claims of prosecutorial misconduct are also common, but hardly ever successful.
Philadelphia PCRA Petitions
Our Philadelphia criminal lawyers handle PCRA petitions and appeals. For a free consultation, please call our office.
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