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Understanding Post Conviction Relief in New Jersey


The Law Office of Charles Dawkins Jr., LLC represents criminal defendants in Post-Conviction Relief. Rule 3:22-1 of the New Jersey State Rules state in relevant part that any person convicted of a crime may, file with the criminal division manager's office of the county in which the conviction took place a petition for post-conviction relief captioned in the action in which the conviction was entered. Many people have convictions that they seek to vacate based upon post-conviction relief. The Law Office of Charles Dawkins Jr. has experience in writing briefs on Post-conviction relief and has obtained Post-conviction relief.  Statistically, most people who seek post-conviction relief will fail; and most people who seek PCR have already failed in the Appeals Court. However, if the person is incarcerated or the person is being deported for the underlying criminal conviction they may want to seek the Law Office of Charles Dawkins Jr., LLC to evaluate whether the defendant should seek to Post-conviction relief Remedy.

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 many cases Post-Conviction Relief Hearings are heard by the same judge that sentenced the person to jail after a guilty plea; or after hearing the evidence and the jury rendered a guilty verdict

However, 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.

What are 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. 

The claim of ineffective assistance of counsel waives the Attorney-Client privilege. State v. Bey, 161 N.J. 233, 296 (1999) 

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 Petitioner should present a Petition pursuant to R. 3:22-8, be verified by the defendant, and shall set forth with specificity the facts upon which the claim for relief is based, the legal grounds of complaint asserted, and the particular relief sought. The petition shall include the following information: 

  • the date, docket number, and content of the indictment or accusation upon which the conviction was based and the county where filed;
  • the date and content of the sentence or judgment complained of and the name of the presiding judge
  • of any appellate proceedings brought from the conviction, attaching a copy of opinions therein
  • any previous post-conviction proceedings relating to the same conviction, giving date and nature of claim and date and nature of the disposition, and concerning any appeal therefrom, together with copies of opinions therein, trial and appellate;
  • whether the petitioner was represented by counsel in any of the proceedings aforementioned, naming the counsel in each such proceeding, and stating whether counsel was in each instance retained or assigned
  • whether and where the defendant is presently confined
  • when a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is alleged that notice has been provided to the attorney whose performance is being challenged.                                                                                                                                                                       

If the defendant is indigent and incarcerated the person can get a form and fill out the form. Usually, a Pool Attorney---a private lawyer who is on the Public Defender's list of Attorneys---will be appointed to represent the person.

However, if the defendant has the finances to hire a private attorney, the defendant should consult with the private attorney to discuss the case and obtain advice as to whether to proceed with PCR and most importantly what are the probable grounds for PCR. 


A defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing only if a prima facie case is established for post-conviction relief, a determination by the court that there are material issues of disputed fact that cannot be resolved by reference to the existing record, and a determination that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to resolve the claims for relief. To establish a Prima Facie case, Defendant must demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that his or her claim, viewing the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the defendant, will ultimately succeed on the merits. R. 3:22-10(b)

The writing of the memorandum of law is crucial in establishing a prima facie case. The Petitioner should seek legal counsel to ensure that he presents the best arguments for post-conviction relief.


The prospective client should contact an attorney with the specific facts of their case to determine whether post-conviction relief is time-barred. Generally, Rule 3:22 petition must be filed not more than five years after rendition of the judgment or sentence sought to be attacked unless the petition alleges: facts showing that the delay beyond the time was because of the defendant's excusable neglect. Notwithstanding, however, a Rule 3:22 petition raising a claim that the sentence· (as opposed to the conviction) is illegal may be filed at any time.  

The post-conviction relief attorney requires a reasonable period to complete the PCR because there is a right to have effective post-conviction relief counsel.  These cases are often tedious with many documents that the post-conviction relief attorney must examine.

Post-Conviction Relief is not a substitute for appeal from conviction or for motion incident to the proceedings in the trial court, and may not be filed while such appellate review or motion is pending. R. 3:22-3.


There is a right to .counsel in Rule 3:-22 proceedings. The criminal defendant may seek private counsel or at the time of filing a petition under this Rule may seek to be represented by the Public Defenders Office pursuant to Rule 3:22-6  


The trial court verdict should not vary depending on the County or city where the matter is being heard. The United States Constitution, the New Jersey State Constitution, New Jersey Supreme Court, and precedential Appellate Division Superior Court decisions apply to the entire New Jersey State. Consequently, the Law Office of Charles Dawkins Jr., LLC represents Post-Conviction Relief in the entire State of New Jersey including the following cities: Elizabeth, NJ, Newark, NJ. Jersey City, NJ. Edison, NJ. Hamilton Township, NJ. Parsippany, NJ. Paterson, NJ., Fairfield, NJ., Middleton Township, Lakewood Township, NJ., Cherry Hill, NJ., Hackensack, NJ, Franklin Township, NJ. Mount Holly, NJ, Camden, NJ., and the entire state of New Jersey.

The Petitioner should seek legal counsel if they want Post-Conviction Relief. Many court rules and some precedential court cases may affect the effectual representation of Post-Conviction Relief. Contact the Law Office of Charles Dawkins Jr. LLC if you seek Post-Conviction Relief. We will evaluate your case and if Post-Conviction Relief is a viable option, we will file the paperwork. 

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.