Contact Us for a Free Consultation 908-962-9929

Understanding Criminal Sentencing and Post Conviction Relief in New Jersey

What Is New Jersey Post Conviction Relief (PCR)?

Post-conviction relief (PCR) is a process that allows a defendant to present additional evidence or raise further issues after they have been convicted of a criminal offense. Unfortunately, errors do occur in the criminal justice system and these errors can result in wrongful convictions. Like the appeals process, PCR provides a way for a defendant to raise and remedy any errors during their case.

PCR is different from a direct appeal. A direct appeal is filed with a higher appellate court. Nor is "Post-Conviction relief a substitute for a direct appeal.  State v. Guzman, 313 N.J. Super 363, 372 (App. Div.) certif. denied 156 N.J. 424 (1998)  A Defendant may not employ Post-Conviction relief to assert a new claim that could have been raised on direct appeal or to relitigate a claim already heard on the merits. State v. Goodwin, 173 N.J. 583, 593 (2002)  

In an appeal, a defendant alleges that the trial court made a legal error and asks the appellate court to give a different decision. An appellate court cannot consider new evidence, it can only review the evidence that was before the trial court.  

In contrast, a defendant applies to the trial court for PCR and it is often the trial judge who hears and decides the matter. A defendant can present new evidence and raise issues that cannot be fully investigated in an appeal, where there is no opportunity to hear witnesses. New Jersey Rule 3:22-4 explains and limits what can be raised on a PCR motion.

A successful PCR motion may result in an order for a new trial, a change to the defendant's sentence, or some other relief for the defendant.

Contacting Law Office of Charles Dawkins Jr. LLC should be your first step if you are facing the criminal justice system. Call us at 908-962-9929 or fill out our form online to schedule a Consultation about your case.

Possible Claims for PCR in New Jersey

The claims a defendant raises in their request for PCR will depend on the specific facts of their case. Examples of potential claims include the discovery of new evidence not available at the time of the trial and post-verdict changes to the law. 

One of the most common bases for PCR is ineffective assistance of counsel, where a defendant alleges their attorney failed to represent them in a reasonably competent manner in violation of their Sixth Amendment rights. 

When arguing ineffective assistance, a defendant may allege their counsel failed to:

  • Investigate a case, including any potential defenses
  • File necessary motions such as a motion to suppress evidence or a motion in limine
  • Obtain expert witness assistance relevant to a defendant's defense
  • Advise them of a plea offer made by the prosecution
  • Correctly advise them in relation to a plea offer
  • Interview and call available witnesses
  • Object to improper evidence
  • Object to improper argument
  • Request a proper jury instruction from the trial judge
  • Object to an improper jury instruction
  • Object to improper sentencing issues
  • Seek a downward departure sentence (a sentence lower than the minimum guideline)

A defendant should seek legal advice as to the specific claims that may arise in their case. 

How to Apply for Post Conviction Relief in New Jersey

The  lawyer will advise as to the time limit for filing a request for PCR.  Often defendants file a PCR motion after a direct appeal has been filed or the time limit expired. 

A PCR motion usually needs to include the details of the trial, the basis on which the defendant is seeking PCR, and the remedy they are seeking.

If a person is indigent the court will appoint an Attorney to represent the Defendant on PCR.

You don't have to face the criminal justice system alone. At Law Office of Charles Dawkins Jr. LLC, we know the justice system can be intimidating and overwhelming. Call 908-962-9929 or fill out a contact form to schedule a Consultation with one of our staff today.

Also Serving Elizabeth, Newark, Plainfield, Woodbridge & All Of New Jersey!

The Law Firm represents clients in all New Jersey Counties and municipalities including the following counties: Union County, Essex County, Middlesex County, Hudson County, Mercer County, and Camden County.