Appeals and Other Post-Conviction Relief

If you have been convicted of a crime you have the option of an appeal, or of seeking release from prison through a personal restraint petition (also known as habeas corpus).

The Marshall Defense Firm is experienced in all forms of post-conviction relief and has been successful in getting trial court errors reversed. We will work on your behalf to ensure that your rights are defended and that mistaken verdicts are reversed.


An immediate note: in state, federal and administrative courts, the deadlines for filing an appeal are rigorously enforced. If you are considering appealing, do not delay getting legal advice. If you miss the deadline, you may lose your rights to appeal forever.

An appeal is a request to a higher court to reverse the decision of a trial court.  Reversing a conviction can result in either a new trial or, in some instances, immediate freedom.

An appeal is based on the record that was created at trial, in the trial court. On appeal there are no new witnesses and no new evidence. The appeal basically argues to the appellate court that the trial judge made mistakes, and that those mistakes made the trial unfair.

In Washington, an appeal from a trial court conviction will go first to one of the three divisions of the Washington Court of Appeals. Whichever party loses in the Court of Appeals can then seek review in the Supreme Court of Washington.

Appeals from federal district court (where trials are held) follow a similar route. First, they go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers the Far West) and then, potentially, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the other hand, if you have been subject to an unfavorable administrative decision, for example, a finding of abuse by Child Protection Services, your appeal will go first to administrative judges within the Office of Administrative Hearings. From OAH your case can be appealed to a court.

Personal Restraint Petition (Habeas Corpus)

“Habeas corpus” is a method for seeking release from unlawful confinement of any sort (the term itself is from Latin—“You have the body”). In Washington State, the most common form of habeas corpus petition is a “petition for relief from personal restraint;” this is commonly abbreviated “personal restraint petition” (PRP).

A PRP is a broader remedy than an appeal, as it can apply to any type of official restraint (for example, involuntary confinement to a mental institution or treatment facility). It is often used in criminal cases, though, by someone whose conviction was obtained unconstitutionally or otherwise illegally, or where new evidence has emerged to show innocence.

Unlike an appeal, a PRP may be based on information not found in the trial court record. A person presenting a PRP can present new evidence. Most often defendants submit a PRP only after exhausting appeal, but that that is not essential, and starting work on a PRP right away can lead to release sooner.

If you or a loved one is in prison now, following a conviction, a PRP can be filed in the Washington Court of Appeals to challenge the imprisonment. There is a deadline for filing a PRP— usually one year after conviction or, if there was an appeal from the conviction, one year after the end of the appeal. Preparing a PRP can take many months, so one should start long before the deadline.

In some situations, a victory in a PRP can end the case in favor of the imprisoned person. More often, victory means the person gets a new trial.

Federal Habeas Corpus

If you or a loved one is in a federal prison, you can seek release on the basis that the conviction was obtained unlawfully by filing for habeas corpus in federal court.

A federal court can also grant relief from state court convictions through habeas corpus, but Congress had made this very difficult to do. Success requires proof the state courts defied clear rules regarding the U.S. Constitution.

Bases for Appeal or Post-Conviction Relief

Legal or constitutional errors occurring at trial can be lead to reversal of a conviction. For example, the trial judge may have given the jury incorrect instructions on the law the jury was to use to decide the case. Or your trial lawyer may have made grievous errors that made the trial unfair.

Another possibility is that there was not sufficient evidence presented at trial to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be a difficult argument to make on appeal because an appellate court will usually defer to a jury’s weighing of the evidence. But a careful review of the trial transcript can sometimes show evidence was not presented on a crucial issue.

How The Marshall Defense Firm Wins Appeals and PRPs

The Marshall Defense Firm’s success in appeals and PRPs comes from ingenuity, experience, insight, and hard work. First, we study the record thoroughly, examining both the trial and all the proceedings before trial, searching for errors. Then we research the relevant law, to see which of the errors we’ve found can be developed into a powerful argument to reverse the conviction.

In a PRP, we have the opportunity to present new evidence. That sometimes means we investigate the case afresh, interviewing witnesses and perhaps engaging scientists to study the case and offer expert opinions.

Appeals and PRPs can take years. We do whatever we can to move our clients’ cases along, so they can regain freedom as soon as possible. We never forget that every day in prison is another day too many.

Our attorneys are careful and creative. We have decades of experience writing briefs and making oral argument. We commonly conduct a “moot court” before an oral argument—a rehearsal with other lawyers playing the roles of the appellate court judges, testing our attorney’s readiness to answer likely questions.

Successes by our firm include winning a new trial for a man who had been sentenced to prison for 28 years.

What it’s Like to Have The Marshall Defense Firm in Your Corner

Respect and compassion are the foundation of our work. It’s where our fierce advocacy for you begins.

Then there’s our experience. For decades we have defended persons accused of sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence, and other misconduct. From that and our on-going study of the law, medicine, and psychology involved in these cases, we have exceptional skill.

And we pool that skill. We work as a team. We know that no one lawyer, no matter how brilliant, will have all the good ideas for your case.

Our final ingredient is relentless preparation. When we step into court to argue your appeal or PRP, we are ready to do it well.

If you or a loved one needs services like ours, contact us at 206.202.1633 or for an appointment.

Confer with us in good health! You may choose to confer with us by Zoom or telephone to avoid Covid risk. Please phone us at 206.826.1400 to schedule your conference.