What is an appeal under the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)?
The Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) allows a defendant to appeal his case when a direct appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has been denied. The PCRA must be filed within a year of the final disposition of the case that ended all of the defendant’s appellate rights. The exception to this rule is when the defendant is in custody. When a defendant is in custody, there are various ways to file a PCRA after the one year rule has passed. We have previously answered questions about the Innocence Project. Obviously, all appellate rights and PCRA have expired in most Innocence Project cases, yet, defendants are still allowed to file a PCRA and obtain a hearing. Newly found evidence is an exception to the one year rule.
A PCRA is limited to certain grounds for appeal. You must plead one of the following in the PCRA petition, under the statute, 42 Pa.C.S. 1500-1510:
“(2) That the conviction or sentence resulted from one or more of the following:
(i) A violation of the Constitution of this Commonwealth or the Constitution or laws of the United States which, in the circumstances of the particular case, so undermined the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place.
(ii) Ineffective assistance of counsel which, in the circumstances of the particular case, so undermined the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place.
(iii) A plea of guilty unlawfully induced where the circumstances make it likely that the inducement caused the petitioner to plead guilty and the petitioner is innocent.
(iv) The improper obstruction by government officials of the petitioners right of appeal where a meritorious appealable issue existed and was properly preserved in the trial court.”
(v) Deleted by statute.
(vi) The unavailability at the time of trial of exculpatory evidence that has subsequently become available and would have changed the outcome of the trial if it had been introduced.
(vii) The imposition of a sentence greater than the lawful maximum.
(viii) A proceeding in a tribunal without jurisdiction.
(3) That the allegation of error has not been previously litigated or waived.
(4) That the failure to litigate the issue prior to or during trial or on direct appeal could not have been the result of any rational, strategic or tactical decision by counsel.”