What is Motion for Post Conviction Relief


Post-conviction means “after conviction”. In the legal scenario, post-conviction means a legal procedure after the trial court has declared the accused as the convicted person. The court will then fix the quantum of fine or penalty for which the person is held guilty. Our legal system provides the convicted person the right to challenge the conviction by the ways of appeal or writs. The main aim for any post-conviction relief is to prove the guilty person innocent by demonstrating any judicial deficit in the trial process, by the discovery of key evidence which is of the nature to turn the case in favour of the convict, flaw in conviction, raise additional issues like violation of Constitution in the case and so on. It is to be noted that there is a salient difference between appeals and post-conviction reliefs. The post-conviction process is in situ for many years to correct and prevent any inherent human error in the justice system.

Difference between appeal and post-conviction relief

An appeal is a process by which a judgment or an order of a subordinate court is challenged before the superior court within a stipulated time. It can be filed by any party to the case. By filing an appeal, the courts perform their appellate jurisdiction by reviewing the cases or correcting the error made by the lower court.  The basis for an appeal is extremely limited and usually revolves around the errors made by the trial court in its adjudication, that is to say the focus is on the law of the case. However, post-conviction reliefs are aimed at resolving the issues arising out of the violation of the constitution, misguidance on the part of the lawyer about the consequences of the plea, lack of proper jurisdiction to enter a judgment against the accused, grave error of law, etc. Accordingly, a post-conviction relief motion may only be used to raise a collateral challenge to the validity of the judgment or sentence and the claims that could be raised by in a post-conviction relief motion should not fall within the ambit of appeals. The courts in various cases have consistently held that there is a prime difference between a PCR motion and appeals.

Thus, a post-conviction relief motion is usually an operation taken to rectify the error that denied the defendant a fair trial and is not a substitute for a direct appeal.

Motion for post-conviction relief

The justice system has its own safeguards built in order to protect the individuals of the society. One such mechanism is the post-conviction relief motion which is specifically designed to protect the constitutional guarantees of an individual during the trial proceedings and to prevent the defendant from wrong and illegal conviction. A motion for post-conviction relief is not an appeal and is also known as a “PCR Motion”. The time frame of filing a PCR motion is usually longer than that of an appeal. PCR motion allows the accused to bring more evidence or raise additional issues in a criminal case. Once the appeal is rejected the defendant has the prerogative of a PCR motion. The motion for PCR is filed in the same trial court and is typically heard by the same court’s judge who had earlier tried and adjudicated the case, unlike the conventional appeals. The statues books and rules of criminal procedures usually contain the process that applies to post-conviction motions in state courts. However, the courts have often observed that post-conviction motions are civil in nature.

If the defendant becomes successful in obtaining a PCR motion than he becomes beneficial to reliefs such as:

  • Release from the custody
  • Right of a new trial
  • Modification of the earlier sentence
  • Any positive resolution in favour of the defendant

Writ of habeas corpus

A writ is a formal written order issued by a court having authority to issue such an order. An application for writ can be filled by an accused who has been denied of his basic constitutional rights. A writ application is an extraordinary method in the justice system for attacking the conviction which has been upheld even by the appellate court post-conviction.

The most common type of post-conviction relief is habeas corpus. Habeas corpus in Latin terms means “you may have the body”. This writ is also known as the “great and efficacious writ in all manner of illegal confinement”. Many jurisdictions around the world have now devised their own PCR motion in the place of writ such as habeas corpus while some statues still use this writ as a principal method for post-conviction relief.

Examples of post-conviction claims being raised by habeas corpus can be seen in states of California and Texas. There are still some common uses of the remedy of habeas corpus even in those states that have a comprehensive and umbrella rule or statute dealing with post-conviction remedies.


The effectiveness of any justice system is its ability to conduct a free and fair trial. Every country has developed its own motions for post-conviction reliefs according to the needs of its jurisdiction but the main object of the post-conviction relief everywhere is to give the defendants enough opportunities to collaterally challenge the validity of his conviction by bringing about new pieces of evidence or challenging the irregularity in the conviction proceedings. Thus, the motion for a PCR is for safeguarding the rights of the individual in a court proceeding and to rectify any humanly error made in the adjudication.

This article is written by Vidya Shankar, 3rd year and B.A.L.L.B (Hons.) at Amity Law School, Delhi (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University)

Also Read – Principle of Moulding of Relief – Explained

Law Corner

Leave a Comment