Following conviction of a crime, the law offers routes to challenge both its legality and the length of sentence handed down. The most common avenue to use in challenging a conviction is by appealing it. A lesser-known option for post-conviction relief is also to use a writ of habeas corpus which is not technically an appeal.
It can be confusing to understand the difference between the two and which one would be the most beneficial to you or your loved one in their case. Understanding more about the differences is important in making an informed decision.
An appeal means challenging the decision of lower courts
It gives a convicted person the opportunity to appear before an appellate court and explain why they believe there was an error or mistake made during their trial which calls into question the safety of their conviction. The outcome of an appeal can be to order a new trial or a new sentencing hearing. It can also have the effect of overturning a conviction in part or entirety but it can also mean affirmation of the original sentence and conviction.
Any incarcerated person has access to habeas corpus
It should be used after other legal remedies, such as an appeal, have been exhausted. A writ of habeas corpus is a court order. It requires the individual being held in jail or prison to be brought before the court by the person holding them and provide a valid reason for that individual being held.
Unlike with an appeal, the court can hear new evidence in habeas corpus cases and must be brought within one of a number of applicable grounds. Examples include having newly discovered evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct and changes in the law under which a person was convicted. It is designed to account for legal errors that do not fall within the “four corners” of the court file.
Appealing a conviction can be very difficult, yet it has extremely important consequences. It’s essential, therefore, to have legal assistance with the process.