Attorneys for Habeas Corpus Appeal of a State Conviction
If you or your loved one has exhausted all state appeals and know that justice was not served, there may be help in federal court. Federal courts can reverse state law convictions if errors were made that violate federal law or constitutional principles.
The fact is that Michigan’s state judges bend over backward to help prosecutors achieve convictions. Judges twist the law and the facts of a case to help prosecutors and police with favorable rulings. In the case of rulings in violation of federal law or the United States Constitution, state judges frequently fail to understand or care that their improper rulings are devastating to defendants and their families.
Prosecutors in the state of Michigan are ethically required to be “ministers of justice.” This means that they are supposed to care about truth first and convictions second. The incredible number of wrongful convictions in the United States and the vast number of federal and state court appellate decisions that cite prosecutorial misconduct make it clear that the priorities of many prosecutors are backward.
What is a habeas corpus appeal of a Michigan conviction?
A habeas corpus appeal is extremely complex and can only be filed on behalf of a person who is in state custody. In custody usually means in jail or prison; however, a person is also “in custody,” for habeas purposes, while on probation or parole or on release on one’s own recognizance. Basically, a petition claiming that a person’s state conviction violates federal constitutional law is called a habeas corpus petition. The number and type of federal claims can be varied and broad. For example, a defendant may claim that the law he was convicted of violating is invalid under the United States Constitution. Alternatively, the defendant may claim that a state court judge improperly upheld a search that violated the 4th Amendment (illegal search and seizure). The breadth of claims that can be made in an attempt to overturn a state conviction based on a violation of federal law are innumerable. However, even violations of state rules of criminal procedure can take on a constitutional dimension through the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee to effective assistance of counsel, if the defendant’s attorney failed to raise those state law issues or argue them properly.
What is the process for a habeas corpus petition to the United States District Court?
Assume for a moment a defendant is convicted of a felony in a Circuit Court in Michigan. That person may have the ability to file certain motions in the Circuit Court to overturn his or her conviction. Once any remedies in the Circuit Court are exhausted or impractical, the next step is to appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals. After the Court of Appeals, the appeal goes to the Michigan Supreme Court. If the Michigan Supreme Court denies the appeal or refuses to hear it, the defendant may file a habeas corpus petition in the United States District Court in Michigan. With certain exceptions, the habeas corpus petition is limited to the federal issues of law that were argued and lost in the state court appeal.
When is it too late to file a habeas corpus petition?
With few exceptions, the appeal must be filed within one year of the last decision in state court, or it will be too late. In other words, one year from the date when the state conviction becomes final. In some cases, a defendant may not have gone through all the state appellate procedures. For example, an appeal of a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling in a criminal case must be filed within 56 days. If the defendant does not appeal and misses the deadline, the 1-year limitation for filing the habeas corpus decision doesn’t start until the end of the 56th day appeal period.
It is very important that a defendant not attempt to calculate any time limits for appeals or habeas petitions on their own. The calculations are complex, and numerous exceptions and nuances can result in unexpected time limits.
What if my lawyer failed to include a federal issue in my appeal?
Generally, the habeas petition can only include federal issues denied in state appeals; however, there is a workaround for this problem. If the state appellate lawyer should have argued a state law issue and failed to do so, the habeas petition can include that issue by claiming the previous lawyer was ineffective. Ineffective basically means negligent.
What if the federal court grants a petition for habeas corpus?
By granting a habeas corpus petition, the federal court is essentially ruling that the state prisoner is being held in violation of federal law. If this happens, the federal court may order that the prisoner be released. For example, the federal judge may order the release of a state prisoner if the sentence imposed amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Another alternative might be that the federal court reverses the conviction and orders a new trial. If this happens, the federal court may permit the state to keep the defendant in prison pending the new trial, so long as the new trial commences promptly. The federal judge can also order that the state prisoner be released pending the new trial.
What is a “writ” of habeas corpus?
A writ of habeas corpus is filed by a state prisoner who is claiming that his or her incarceration is illegal under federal law. Technically, a writ of habeas corpus means an order to bring a body before the court. Although that sounds a bit morbid, it just means the federal court judge is ordering that the state prisoner and his case be heard in federal court.
What kind of lawyer handles federal habeas corpus appeals?
Many federal criminal defense lawyers handle these appeals; however, few have the skill, experience, and tenaciousness to handle them successfully. To be successful consistently, a criminal appellate lawyer must have a robust grasp of both federal and state criminal law. The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has successfully handled many appellate matters, and we have the capability and proficiency to handle a federal habeas corpus appeal successfully. If you have a loved one who has exhausted all state appellate remedies and may be eligible for a federal habeas corpus petition, please call us at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation and case evaluation. If you would like an experienced federal appellate attorney to contact you, please complete a Request for Assistance Form. If there is a way to help, we will find it, and we are not afraid to win.
What if it is too late for a federal habeas petition?
If the one-year limitation has passed and no exceptions or extensions apply, it will be too late to file a federal habeas petition; however, all may not be lost. There still is a remedy available under Michigan law that can permit some relief. It may be possible to get back into a state court with what is commonly referred to as a 6500 motion. As with habeas petitions, the rules and procedures are complex with this type of post-judgment motion, and a seasoned, veteran lawyer is a key ingredient for success.