Once a person either is sentenced by a judge in district court, or loses their appeal, they only have a short while to determine what they can do next on their case. Case reviews are a way to have an attorney research your loved one’s possible issues, let you know what claims your loved one may have and guide you as to what steps your loved one can take next.
Time May be Running out on Your Case
As we have stated elsewhere, once a case is finalized a defendant only has one year to decide to file a Motion to Vacate under § 2255. Generally speaking, this means 12 months after the latest of the following
(1) The deadline by which your loved one has to file a direct appeal after your loved one’s conviction, or if your loved one appeals and their appeal is denied, 90 days after.
(2) New evidence is discovered that could not have been discovered before.
(3) The date that the Supreme Court first declares that someone in your loved one’s situation has a right that affects your sentence or conviction (but only if the Supreme Court specifically makes it retroactive).
(4) The date of some government action that prevented your loved one from filing before.
There is no duty to tell a criminal defendant much of this information, especially when it comes to filing a 2255 motion. In addition, there is no general right to a court-appointed attorney to help decide to file a post-conviction motion. As a result, many inmates get to prison not knowing that they can file a § 2255 (or other post-conviction motion) and if so, if their claims are viable.
A Case Review Gives Us the Opportunity to Look at Your Case and the Relevant Laws
A case review is a way that our office can look at your loved one’s federal criminal matter and the law around their case to determine if they have viable claims for relief. We do this in a variety of ways that include getting their input on the case, reviewing the documents on file and researching the law to determine what your loved one’s next steps may be.
A case review can be used to determine different types of relief that your loved one may be able to seek, including a direct appeal, a 2255 motion, a second or successive 2255 motion, a 2241 motion, a Rule 60(b) motion or any other type of relief that your loved one may be seeking.
First, we will work to schedule a legal call with your loved one inside prison. We do this by reaching out to the prison staff. The calls are in either the counselor’s office or in a private room with a phone made just for this purpose. On the calls, we discuss what happened in the case, what your loved one wants the court to know and what other ways they have sought relief after they were sentenced.
Next, we get the documents that are on the case. We get these documents from PACER, the court’s online file system. We also get the transcripts from the court reporter and seek documents from the former attorney(s) on the case. Then, we proceed to review the documents and transcripts on the case. We also look at the law and determine how it applies to the issues that we find. We research cases from the Supreme Court, Appellate Courts, and District Courts to determine what claims your loved one may have. We will research the issues that your loved one discusses with us as well as the issues that we find on our own. Once we determine the issues that are present, we will write a memorandum to your loved one that explains the research that we have done, the issues that we have found and whether those issues will help them in court. If we believe that we can help then we will let them know what issues we found, what we believe your loved one can file and when the filing would be due. We will mail that case review memo to your loved one and follow up with you as well.
What is the Difference Between a Case Review and a “Free Look Up”?
Often times we are asked if we can engage in a “free lookup” of a federal criminal matter. A “free lookup,” in many cases, involves looking solely at the docket sheet and several documents on the case to make determinations about a particular issue. But a free lookup, in many situations, is only looking at the documents on their face, and not conclusive.
We engage in case reviews so that we can look at the law and let you and your loved one know how it affects the case. Nobody can say definitively whether a person has an issue without researching all of the facts of a case and doing case-specific legal research. A seemingly small distinction in one case can make or break a claim in another.
What if No Issues are Found?
If we do not find anything on your loved one’s case that we can use to get them back into court we will let your loved one know. We will let them know what we looked up and why it turned out not to be viable. The memorandum is your loved one’s to keep so that they may review it or get a second opinion.
Even if no legal issues are found, there may be other possibilities to reduce your sentence, such as clemency or a petition for a Reduction in Sentence under 3582.
A case review is a way to have your counsel look at your issues and let you know what is available. If you are interested then reach out to our office today.
If you have been charged with a crime, or have an incarcerated loved one that is in need of legal assistance, we invite you to request an appointment to speak with a representative of the firm by filling out our appointment request form below. Someone will promptly contact you back.