One of the most common questions our criminal appeals lawyers get when speaking to a criminal defendant about a potential Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition is whether they will be able to obtain an evidentiary hearing. The answer depends on the facts and circumstances of the case and basis for the PCRA petition. Download a copy of the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act here.
As a preliminary matter, a PCRA court will not even review the issues raised in a PCRA petition unless the petition was filed within the strict time limitations imposed under Section 9545(b) of the Act. Assuming the petition was filed on time, a petitioner is eligible for relief if it is shown that the conviction or sentence resulted from one of the errors/defects listed in Section 9543(a)(2). The petitioner must also show that the issues raised in the PCRA petition have not been previously litigated or waived, as required by Section 9543(a)(3).
Are You Entitled to an Evidentiary Hearing on a PCRA Petition?
In a recent (December 2015) case, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the dismissal of a PCRA petition without an evidentiary hearing on the grounds that the underlying claim lacked merit. In Commonwealth v. Hawkins (December 2, 2015, Pennsylvania Superior Court), the petitioner appealed the dismissal of his PCRA petition, arguing that 1. his criminal attorney was ineffective, and 2. he should have been granted an evidentiary hearing.
The petitioner argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate/call an alibi witness. The Superior Court found that the petition failed to meet the requirements for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim based on the failure to call a witness. In this case, the court found that the petitioner failed to establish that the witness was willing and able to testify.
The court also upheld dismissal of the petition without an evidentiary hearing. Under Pennsylvania PCRA law, there is no absolute right to an evidentiary hearing. See Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 907. If the PCRA court determines that there are no genuine issues of material fact, it can deny relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Also, it is entirely up to the PCRA court’s discretion to decline to hold a hearing if the claim is frivolous or is unsupported by the evidence or the record. See Commonwealth v. Miller (Pennsylvania Superior Court, 2014).
FREE CONSULTATIONS – CALL (215) 564-0644
Our law firm offers a free consultation for criminal cases including appeals and PCRA petitions. Please call (215) 564-0644 and ask to speak to our criminal appeals lawyers.
Disclaimer: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. Our lawyers provide legal advice only after accepting a case. It is imperative that any action taken is done on advice of counsel. Read full disclaimer below.