What is the difference between a South Carolina criminal appeal and post-conviction relief?

If you or a loved one has been convicted of a crime, you’re probably wondering what options you have to try to continue to fight your case. In South Carolina there are two main ways of doing so- the criminal appeal and post-conviction relief, also called PCR.

Understanding the difference between the two is important in making sure that you retain the full rights to challenge the case.

  1. A South Carolina criminal appeal focuses mostly on things the judge did.

A criminal appeal is a request for another judge, or even panel of judges, to consider whether or not the initial judge made any serious legal mistakes. The types of issues that can be appealed are usually just limited to decisions the judge made that one or both sides of the case objected to. Examples might be a dispute over certain evidence or witness testimony, or what legal instructions the judge gave the jury at the end of a trial.

Decisions from the appeal are made by a judge (or panel of judges), who only review the paperwork and transcript of the case. They do not consider new evidence or conduct a new trial.

  1. A South Carolina PCR focuses mostly on things the original lawyer did.

Post-conviction relief (PCR) is a request by a judge to consider whether or not a defendant’s conviction violates a constitutional protection. Most issues raised in a PCR involve things that the initial lawyer did or did not do. This might include things like failing to investigate the case, failing to call defense witnesses, or providing inaccurate legal advice.

The PCR case will be decided by a judge (different than the one who conducted the trial or took the plea). There is a hearing and the Defendant and any other important witnesses are allowed to testify and offer information (including potentially new information) to the Court.

  1. So should you file for an appeal or post-conviction relief?

Normally a criminal appeal is the best first step for cases that actually went through trial. This is because the appeal is the only way to review the case for legal errors made by the judge. There is usually 10 days after the end of a case to file a criminal appeal.

When the conviction is from a guilty-plea the best initial step is the PCR. This is because if there were no decisions the judge made that one or both sides of the case objected to there are not going to be grounds to support an appeal. There is usually one year after the end of a case (including any appeal) to file PCR.

If a conviction is from a trial (where jury heard the evidence and then returned a guilty verdict), usually the best first step is to file a criminal appeal. If the case isn’t overturned during that process the PCR can then be filed.

It is important to keep in mind that the time-limit to file for PCR is held up while an appeal is pending. The time limit to file an appeal is not held up while a PCR is pending. This is why usually you should file the appeal first, even if you think your best chances are with a PCR.

So what does this mean for your case?

Anytime someone has been convicted of a crime it should be taken seriously. You need to make sure that your preserve your right to a fully comprehensive review, whether that is from a criminal appeal, PCR, or maybe both.

If you’ve got questions regarding what steps you should take, call our office at 1-888-301-6004 to schedule a free, no-obligation criminal appeal or PCR consultation. Free consultations are held in in-person in our office. Prison or jail consultations are available on a paid basis.Our attorneys have experience in representing defendants at all stages of the case, including appeals and PCR. 

Categories: Appeals
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