Post-Conviction Proceedings Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Pennsylvania Criminal Convictions

If you were convicted in Pennsylvania and are serving a sentence, this is probably your last chance for relief. It is a limited opportunity for a federal judge to review your conviction for errors of a federal constitutional magnitude and time is of the essence if you wish to hire a seasoned Pennsylvania criminal appeals attorney.

The time limit in which to file a section 2254 motion is limited. It must be filed within one year of the state conviction becoming final. This can be a difficult time to calculate because some periods, like when a PCRA petition is pending, do not count toward the one-year limit. The PCRA petition must, however, be “properly filed.” That term can be complex. It is enough to say that a criminal defendant should not wait to get a federal post-conviction proceeding started. Waiting too long can result in the loss of the opportunity.

Federal courts rarely grant relief on section 2254 motions. An experienced post-conviction attorney is the best choice to evaluate the state court record to find claims that could result in relief. Just as importantly, attorneys who are familiar with post-conviction law know the proper way to plead and present these claims.

Like calculating the one-year time limitation, determining which claims can be presented to a federal court in a section 2254 motion is complex. In many circumstances, claims cannot be presented to the federal court because they were never presented to state courts in early proceedings (like on direct appeal or in a PCRA petition). This is called default. Default can be overcome in a few different ways, but a clear understanding of the law is necessary.

This process can be convoluted, and the case law interpreting presentation of claims in a section 2254 motion is dense. It can take considerable time to go through state court proceedings to find claims that can be presented to a federal court. For this reason, it is important to get an experienced Pennsylvania post-conviction lawyer, like Lloyd Long, involved as early as possible. In fact, as long as you pick the right lawyer, the earlier he gets involved in a case, the better: when a lawyer first works on a PCRA, going through the record again for a section 2254 motion is unnecessary because he is already familiar with the case. If you have any questions regarding post-conviction proceedings for Pennsylvania criminal convictions, contact us today to schedule a consultation.