Post-Conviction Proceedings Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 for Federal Criminal Convictions
Like it’s equivalent in Pennsylvania – the PCRA – section 2255 presents a person convicted of a federal crime an opportunity to challenge their attorney’s representation. Defendants are also able to raise other claims, such as the suppression of evidence by the government, or the existence of newly discovered evidence that could not have been found with the exercise of due diligence.
Section 2255 motions must be filed within one year of a defendant’s convictions becoming final. Circuit courts of appeals have come to different conclusions about when that occurs in different situations, and for that reason, the process should always begin as soon as possible. Once your criminal appeal is decided, an experienced post-conviction attorney should be contacted. It is often a good idea to get a Pennsylvania criminal appeals lawyer involved while an appeal is pending. That way, the gap between the decision on appeal and the filing of a section 2255 motion is shortened, and concerns about filing on time are avoided.
Much like the PCRA, section 2255 motions primarily focus on a prior trial or appellate attorney’s decisions. Proving that an attorney made an error is not enough. Instead, it must be established that the error was not a reasonable strategic choice and that the error caused prejudice to the defendant. Prejudice means that if the error had not been made, there is a reasonable likelihood that the outcome would have been different.
Arguing that an attorney made an error – which is commonly referred to as a claim of “ineffective assistance of counsel” – is not limited to trial. A defendant who pleaded guilty might have a claim that they would not have pleaded guilty absent bad advice, and that they very well may have been acquitted at trial. These claims can also be presented for sentencing errors. If an attorney could have argued that a sentence should be lower for a specific reason but did not make that argument, a new sentencing hearing might be granted.
Ineffectiveness claims can be presented for appellate representation. In other words, if your appellate attorney made an unreasonable error and you might have been granted appellate relief without the error, this claim can be raised in a section 2255 motion. The most frequent type of appellate error is failing to include an argument that stood a reasonable chance of some type of victory, such as a new trial, suppression being granted, a lesser sentence, or complete discharge from custody.
Valid claims under section 2255 must be properly presented or they will not result in relief. For this reason, you should not entrust what might be your last chance for success in a federal criminal case to an inexperienced attorney or the attorney who makes false promises to get your money. Without a review of case materials, promises are meaningless. Contacting an experienced Pennsylvania post-conviction lawyer, like attorney Lloyd Long, is the best decision you can make. To schedule a consultation, call (215) 731-9500 or contact us online.