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Attorneys for Post-conviction Relief in Iowa

If you did not prevail in a direct appeal to overturn your conviction or sentence, then you still have the opportunity to file a motion for post-conviction relief. In some cases, your attorney might also present arguments normally heard during post-conviction proceeds in the direct appeal. The appellate courts will hear post-conviction arguments on appeal if the record is sufficient. See State v. Spurgeon, 533 N.W.2d 218, 220 (Iowa 1995).

In most cases, the post conviction application is not filed under all direct appeals have been exhausted.

The post-conviction proceeding does not address the same issues considered during the direct appeal including those issues related to reconsideration of the verdict, and the sufficiency of the evidence to convict the defendant at trial. Instead, the application for post-conviction relief is a collateral attack on the judgment and sentence. Iowa Code section 822.2 provides for different grounds for post-conviction relief including:

  • After a guilty plea, a post-conviction challenge for factually insufficient colloquies at the sentencing hearing;
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel claims under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984) and Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134 (Iowa 2001);
  • Claims of prosecutorial misconduct; and
  • Claims showing newly discovered evidence;
  • The conviction or sentence imposed by the trial court was in violation of the United States or Iowa Constitution or other law in Iowa;
  • The defendant’s conviction is subject to collateral attack based upon any error made by the trial court;
  • The defendant is unlawfully being held in custody;
  • New evidence of material facts requires a new trial in the interest of justice;
  • The sentence was illegal because it exceeds the maximum authorized by law;
  • The court was without jurisdiction to impose sentence; or
  • The defendant’s “earned time” has been unlawfully forfeited.

Iowa’s Postconviction Statute

Post conviction motions in Iowa are usually brought under Chapter 822, which is known as Iowa’s Postconviction Statute. The post-conviction statute is the equivalent of state habeas corpus action. A post-conviction motion is a type of civil suit attacking the criminal conviction and the sentence by the trial court. The criminal defendant is designated as the plaintiff during the post-conviction action and the State is designated as the defendant.

Post conviction actions are subject to the Rules of Civil Procedure in Iowa. These actions are brought in the county of the conviction and sentence.

Many of these claims are filed by prisoner on a “pro se” basis after their direct criminal appeal was lost and the conviction was affirmed. If you can afford an attorney to represent you in a post conviction motion, it is important to hire the attorney as quickly as possible.

During the post conviction hearing, the State is represented by the County Attorney in these cases. Important timelines apply which are essentially a statute of limitations that requires the claim to be filed within three (3) years of final conviction. An exception to this deadline applies if the claim is based on newly discovered evidence or other facts or laws that could not have been raised within the designated time period. The law in Iowa also imposes a 90-day limitation for reduction of sentence.

At the hearing, your attorney will present evidence through documents and witnesses showing that you are entitled to relief. Your attorney might also file post-trial briefs or proposed findings to assist the court in making a decision.


Post-Conviction Claims for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

For post-conviction proceedings in Iowa, the most common claim is that the person convicted received ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment. The courts follow the standard required by the United States Supreme Court which is known as the “Strickland” test. Under the Strickland test, to show ineffective assistance of counsel rising to the level of a Sixth Amendment violation, the person convicted must show:

  • The trial counsel’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and
  • A reasonable probability existed that “but for” the trial counsel’s “unprofessional errors,” the result of the proceeding would have been different.

Additional Resources

Iowa’s “Uniform Postconviction Procedure Act” – Visit the website of the Iowa Legislature to find Chapter 822 for Procedures in Post Conviction actions. Find information in when the statute is applicable, situations where the law applies, how to commence proceedings, facts to be presented, appeals from a post-conviction hearing and time limits. Under Section 822.9, an appeal from a final judgment entered in a post-conviction case can be taken, perfected, and prosecuted either by the applicant or by the state in the manner and within the time after judgment as provided in the rules of appellate procedure for appeals from final judgments in criminal cases. However, if a party is seeking an appeal under section 822.2, subsection 1, paragraph “f”, the appeal shall be by writ of certiorari.


Finding a Post-Conviction Attorney in Des Moines, Iowa

If you were wrongfully convicted or illegally sentenced of a crime in Iowa, then contact an experienced criminal appellate attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. in Des Moines, Iowa. Our attorneys also represent clients in direct criminal appeals after a wrongful conviction when seeking post-conviction relief.

Call us at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. to discuss your case.