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 based on federal legal errors and constitutional principles.
Habeas Appeal to the United States District Court
The fact is that Michigan’s state judges bend over backward to help prosecutors achieve convictions. Judges twist law and facts to help prosecutors and police with favorable rulings. State judges frequently fail to understand federal law or care that their improper orders devastate defendants and their families. The attorneys for habeas corpus appeals with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. can assess a case and determine the best options for overturning a conviction or sentence.
Prosecutors in 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 many prosecutors’ priorities are backward.
What is a habeas corpus appeal of a Michigan conviction?
A habeas corpus appeal is extraordinarily complex, and only a person in state custody is eligible for relief. In custody usually means jail or prison; however, a person is also “in custody” for habeas purposes while on probation or parole or 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 a Michigan criminal statute is invalid under the United States Constitution. Alternatively, the defendant may argue that a state court judge improperly upheld a search that violated the 4th Amendment (illegal search and seizure). The breadth of claims 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 correctly.
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 file certain motions in the Circuit Court to overturn their 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. Attorneys for habeas corpus appeals are unique because they have to have a superior understanding of both federal and state criminal laws.
When is it too late to file a habeas corpus petition?
With few exceptions, a defendant must appeal 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, a defendant must file an appeal of a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling 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 imperative that a defendant not attempt to calculate any time limits for appeals or habeas petitions without competent legal counsel. 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. In other words, an attorney for habeas corpus appeals can often incorporate state law issues if the state law appellate attorney was ineffective.
What if the federal court grants a petition for habeas corpus?
By granting a habeas corpus petition, the federal court essentially rules that the state prisoner is 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 the state prisoner’s release pending a new trial.
What is a “writ” of habeas corpus?
A state prison files a writ of habeas corpus claiming that their 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 grants review of the state prisoner’s case in federal court.
What kind of attorney 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 federal and state criminal law. The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has 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 for a free consultation and case evaluation. If there is a way to help, the Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will find it. We are not afraid to win.
What if it is too late for an attorney to file a federal habeas corpus 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. A remedy still exists under Michigan law that can permit some relief. Getting back into a state court with a 6500 motion (or a successive 6.500 motion) might still be possible. 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.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.