Raleigh, NC asked in Appeals / Appellate Law, Criminal Law and Federal Crimes for North Carolina

Q: If a person has been convicted of a federal felony, served their time but was wrongfully convicted. What can he do?

1 Lawyer Answer
John D. Pritchard
John D. Pritchard
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Asheville, NC
  • Licensed in North Carolina

A: There are three broad ways that a person can challenge a federal conviction, but none of those may apply to this situation.

First is the most common and widely understood--the person may appeal his/her conviction to the Court of Appeals. (And in rare circumstances, may appeal from there to the Supreme Court of the United States.) But if this person has already been convicted and done their time, it's probably too late to file an appeal.

Another common post-conviction method of challenging one's conviction is to file what is commonly called a 2255 motion. Technically, it's a reference to Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255. However, based on this hypothetical, it probably will not apply either as those motions are for prisoners currently in custody.

Finally, there's Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. It's the rule that applies to motions for a new trial. But there are time limits to it as well--three years after the finding of guilty if it is based on new evidence. If not, the time limit is only fourteen days.

There may be other options, including a Presidential pardon. After all, presidents have pardoned dead individuals who obviously could no longer enjoy the benefits of it.

To be candid, all of these are probably longshots, some of them to the extreme. Courts have an interest in finality and not relitigating already decided issues. Your chances at overcoming these long odds will be better if there is something genuinely new, either a change in the law or newly discovered evidence.

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