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Is it possible to reverse a criminal conviction?

On Behalf of | Jan 19, 2023 | CRIMINAL LAW - Criminal Appeals

Following a conviction at trial or through a guilty plea in Washington, many people think that nothing more can be done. However, there are a few ways that people can try to reverse convictions or withdraw guilty pleas, including filing motions for post-conviction relief, appeals, or writs.

Motions for post-conviction relief in Washington

Under RCW §10.73.090, Washington allows defendants to file motions for post-conviction relief to collaterally attack a criminal conviction, judgment, and sentence. These motions must be filed no later than one year following the date the judgment is final. The most common types of motions for post-conviction relief include the following:

  • Motion for a new trial
  • Motion to withdraw a guilty plea
  • Motion to arrest the judgment
  • Motion to vacate the judgment

The one-year deadline does not apply when constitutional violations are later discovered, the evidence presented was insufficient to support the conviction, or when filing a motion for a new trial based on the discovery of new evidence that could not have been discovered before the initial trial.

Appeals and writs

Criminal appeals can be filed after a conviction and judgment have been entered. Appeals are filed with the higher court based on errors made during a trial or plea. An appeal must cite specific errors made in the trial court that materially affected the outcome of the case. The appellate court will review the appellate briefs and determine whether the errors were prejudicial. If they are, the appellate court might reverse the conviction and order a new trial. Writs are filed less commonly than appeals and motions for post-conviction relief. These are filed with federal courts when all opportunities for appeal in the state courts have been exhausted.

Reversing a conviction is not always possible. Before filing a motion for post-conviction relief, appeal, or writ, it is important to understand the legal basis on which to base the motion, appeal, or writ. If it is not legally grounded, it will likely not succeed.