You have been convicted and sentenced. You may have even filed a direct appeal and lost. You are not guilty, or the State did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. So, you want to file a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief (“PCR”). The remedy of PCR is one of the most difficult criminal procedures to interpret and understand and has little chance of success if the rules and laws are not strictly followed. Errors in filing can result in waiver of this remedy. For this reason, you should have an attorney carefully review and prepare your case before filing for PCR and skillfully handle the hearing. This blog covers the five key sets of documents you always need for a PCR case and why they are important.1
The first is the Charging Information and related filings and documents. The Charging Information is the document that lists the crimes for which you were charged, along with the elements of each crime which the State is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The Probable Cause Affidavit contains the initial evidence that was provided by the police to the prosecutor and the criminal court to obtain a warrant for your arrest. Together, these documents give a general preview of the State’s case in a short, succinct form. Remember, just because you were charged with multiple crimes, does not mean you were convicted of all of them for the PCR.
The second is “discovery”. Discovery is a legal term that means the information related to your case, such as photos. Prior to trial, both sides are required to exchange information relevant to the criminal charges. Often the prosecutor provides this to you or your defense counsel at the initial hearing. This discovery includes, but is not limited to, witness statements, police reports, and any audio or video recordings that were made during or after the crime occurred. It is important to know and review what evidence was provided prior to trial so that it can be compared to the evidence that was used at trial. This is helpful to determine if an item should have been used at trial, but was not, or if evidence that was used should have been excluded at trial.2
The third set of materials are pre-trial motions and orders; there are many issues that may arise prior to a criminal trial that can impact what evidence can be presented by the State or the Defense. For example, if you made a statement prior to being arrested, your lawyer may have filed a Motion to Suppress. It is essential that the lawyer reviewing and preparing your case for PCR have access to all pre-trial Motions and the resulting Orders. If the Judge erred in granting or denying one of these pre-trial Motions, the outcome of the trial could have been impacted. This may factor into the basis of your post-conviction relief.
The fourth is “the record”. This is not your criminal record as the name may suggest. Instead, it is the official “memory” of your trial. Every criminal trial is recorded word-for-word by the court’s court reporter. This ensures that the evidence presented is preserved for the future (this ensure due process and the right to appeal and file a PCR) so that any potential errors may be raised. It is imperative that an attorney reviewing your case for PCR case have a copy of the transcript of your trial and sentencing, including all exhibits that were offered as evidence. Without the transcript and exhibits, there is no way to determine whether any error was made at trial, or whether there is any basis for filing for post-conviction relief in most cases.
The final set of materials relates to what happens after trial, if anything. Sometimes a criminal case does not end at sentencing. The Defense may file a motion with the court to reconsider evidence, or to challenge something that happened at trial, or as part of sentencing. Further, if you have filed an appeal of your conviction and/or sentence, an attorney reviewing your case for PCR case will need access to all documents filed in connection with the appeal, namely the appellate briefing, decision of the Indiana Court of Appeals and any transfer petition or decision on transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.
With these materials, it will allow your attorney to assess all the legal angles for a PCR petition related to the trial and post-trial process. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice civil, criminal, and appellate law throughout the State of Indiana and handle PCR cases, knowing the intricacies involved in pursuing this legal remedy. This blog post is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates for general educational purposes only. It is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- These documents come in sequence from the charge to conviction and through appeal.
- A related concept is Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, but this is not addressed in this blog. The leading case is Strickland v. Washington from the United States Supreme Court.