Eligibility for review
The Post-Conviction Team reviews any North Carolina convictions that result in a person’s confinement. We review guilty pleas and the cases of people who went to trial, once the direct appeal process is over.
The team begins by ordering the documents necessary to evaluate any legal errors that might entitle someone to an earlier release date. If an attorney finds an error, the attorney will offer to represent the person. This representation could include reaching out to the District Attorney’s Office for an informal resolution or filing a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR) that would then be litigated in court. North Carolina has a robust post-conviction statute that allows for criminal defendants and prosecutors to revisit sentences at any time to correct errors through MARs. Post-Conviction attorneys represent clients throughout the litigation process as long as there is a good faith basis for continuing the litigation.
If an attorney does not find an issue, the attorney will draft a letter explaining that conclusion and answering any questions the person may have had about their case. We also provide post-conviction manuals and a set of legal forms for people who would like to file something on their own.
Grounds for relief
An MAR can only be filed under certain limited circumstances. The most common legal issues that lead to the reduction of our clients' terms of incarceration are incorrectly calculated prior record levels and flawed charging documents. Other grounds include newly discovered evidence and ineffective assistance of counsel. Clients and their families should be aware that it is difficult to challenge a guilty plea. If an MAR challenging a guilty plea is granted, it may invalidate the original plea agreement and allow the State to prosecute the dismissed or consolidated charges, potentially resulting in a less-favorable outcome for the defendant. Further, if an MAR is filed and denied, it may prohibit that individual from filing another MAR in their case. If an incarcerated individual has a concern about the legality of their conviction or sentence, we encourage them to write to us. If you have any questions about this process, you may contact us here.
North Carolina Indigent Defense Services (for information about trial and appellate defenders)
UNC School of Government Guide: Relief from a Criminal Conviction