Federal Habeas Corpus Attorney in Columbia, SC – 2255 Motions
Elizabeth is an attorney in Columbia, SC, with extensive experience handling federal post-conviction relief cases including federal habeas corpus and 2255 motions, federal appeals, and collateral attacks on state-court convictions in federal court.
If you need help with a 2255 motion or other post-conviction relief in federal court, or if you believe you might have grounds for challenging your state-court conviction in a federal habeas corpus action, call us as soon as possible because there are strict time limits on when you can file a 2255 or federal habeas action.
What is Federal Habeas Corpus?
The writ of habeas corpus has been around since at least the 1600s as a means for a prisoner to challenge the legality of his or her detention. Habeas corpus means “you have the body,” and is a way to bring a prisoner before the court (or the King, in the 1600’s) to determine whether the prisoner’s detention is lawful.
Habeas corpus in today’s federal court usually takes the form of a 28 USC Section 2255 motion to overturn a federal conviction (or sentence) based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Federal habeas corpus can also be used to challenge state-court convictions.
What is a 2255 Motion in Federal Court?
28 USC Section 2255 provides a potential remedy for federal inmates once they have exhausted their direct appeals.
A 2255 motion asks the court to “vacate, set aside or correct the sentence” when “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or… the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or… the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.”
Although most 2255 motions are based on ineffective assistance of counsel, many of the traditional grounds for habeas corpus can also be raised in a 2255 motion.
What is the Time Limit for Filing a 2255 Motion in Federal Court?
As a general rule, there is a one-year statute of limitations for filing a 2255 motion in federal court.
“The “clock begins running” on the date of conviction, the date it becomes possible to file if government action was preventing the filing, the date the right asserted was recognized by the US Supreme Court or the date that the grounds for the 2255 motion were discovered:
(f) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to a motion under this section. The limitation period shall run from the latest of—
(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.
Can I File More than One 2255 Motion?
Every defendant who had been convicted in federal court has the right to file a 2255 motion one time.
In some cases, you can file a second or successive habeas corpus action, but we must first get permission to file the motion from a three-judge panel of the Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals will dismiss a second or successive 2255 motion unless it contains new evidence that could not reasonably have been discovered before or a new rule of constitutional law that the US Supreme Court has made retroactive:
(h) A second or successive motion must be certified as provided in section 2244 by a panel of the appropriate court of appeals to contain—
(1) newly discovered evidence that, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found the movant guilty of the offense; or
(2) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable.
“Newly discovered evidence,” unfortunately, means “newly discovered evidence that establishes factual innocence,” which is a high standard to meet. If the newly discovered evidence had been discovered before trial and if the jurors had heard the evidence, it must be such that “no reasonable factfinder would have found the movant guilty of the offense.”
The second option is also a high bar to meet. A successive 2255 motion based on a change in the law must be based on a change in constitutional law and the change must be retroactive – the US Supreme Court must order that it applies to everyone who was affected by it before the new rule was announced as well as new cases going forward.
Federal Habeas Corpus Lawyer in Columbia, SC
If you need help with a 2255 motion in federal court, or if you believe you might have grounds for challenging your state-court conviction in a federal habeas corpus action, we want to help.
For more information, call us at (803) 331-3421 or send us an email to set up a consultation about your case.