1. First step after the jury’s verdict.

Following a criminal conviction from a jury trial, the judge will set a sentencing date. Before sentencing, the Department of Parole and Probation will interview you and prepare a report for the judge to consider during sentencing – called a PSI. Ask your lawyer to prepare you for this interview and ask your lawyer to attend the interview with you. It is important to make sure that the PSI is correct and has the facts as testified to at trial – not just those from the police report. The judge will rely on the PSI in sentencing, and the PSI will follow you for the rest of your life. If you are sentenced to prison, the Parole Board will rely heavily on the PSI, as will the prison when deciding your classification.

  1. I’ve been sentenced, what next?

Once you have been sentenced, the court will prepare and enter a Judgment of Conviction. Be sure to ask your lawyer for a copy of the JOC and for you lawyer to check the JOC to make sure it is correct. Once the JOC has been filed, the clock starts to tick for your lawyer to file a Notice of Appeal from your conviction. You are entitled to this appeal and to a lawyer to file it for you. If you can’t afford a private lawyer, the Public Defender will be appointed. This appeal argues to the supreme court and/or court of appeals that you are entitled to a new trial or dismissal of the case because of legal errors in your case that denied you due process and a fundamentally fair trial. This appeal does not argue whether your lawyer was effective or not. It only argues about legal errors.

  1. My direct appeal was denied. What can I do?

If your direct appeal is denied, the next step you can take is to file a post-conviction Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus based on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel. You are not entitled to a lawyer for post-conviction relief, but the judge might appoint one for you. Be careful to file your petition within the deadline. This is the point where you now argue to the court that your attorney(s) were ineffective in representing you. The judge will consider your petition and the state’s reply, and the court may order an evidentiary hearing to hear testimony to help decide whether your attorney was ineffective.

  1. The judge denied my post-conviction relief petition. Do I have any options left?

Yes! Again, be diligent with the deadlines for filing all documents. If the court denies your request for post-conviction relief, you can then appeal that decision to the supreme court/court of appeals to challenge the district court’s denial of your request for post-conviction relief. You are not entitled to an attorney for this appeal, but if the court appointed an attorney for you in your post-conviction action in the district court, that attorney will also handle your appeal.

  1. I’ve lost that appeal – is there any hope?

Yes! Once again, and I can’t stress enough, make sure you stay on top of all deadlines. Now that the state courts have denied you relief, you have the option of filing for post-conviction relief in the federal court. You are not entitled to an attorney for this process, but if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, the court may appoint the Federal Public Defender’s Office to represent you.

  1. This seems like a long process. Is it worth it?

Yes! The process is long and complicated – but that just means that there are a lot of opportunities for you to possibly win your argument(s). This is your life, and as complicated and long as the process can be, nothing is more important than ensuring that your constitutional rights were protected at every step of your criminal case.