Post-conviction relief in Ohio

Columbus Post-Conviction Relief Lawyers

Persuasive representation for Central Ohio defendants seeking to overturn or remedy their conviction

Even after a criminal conviction, there’s hope. You may even have rights if you pled guilty to an offense. When seeking post-conviction relief, whether in state court or federal court, it is crucial to act timely, and invoke all of your rights. Certain remedies may be waived if you do not properly assert them. Some of the grounds for post-conviction relief include new evidence which raises doubt about your conviction, improper conduct by the judge, prosecution, or jury, changes in the law, or ineffective counsel at your trial.

At Soroka & Associates, LLC, our criminal defense lawyers are skilled post-conviction relief attorneys. We’ll review your rights, what steps you need to take to assert those rights, and how the criminal process judges your requests. We begin by closely reviewing the trial transcripts. Contact our Columbus criminal defense attorneys today for your free consultation. Time is of the essence in all post-conviction relief matters! We will work to regain your freedom and overturn injustices.

How does an appeal of a state-court conviction in Columbus work?

An appeal is a request to a higher court to review whether your conviction should be overturned, whether a new trial should be granted, or whether other remedies should apply. An appeal must be filed promptly. Our Columbus post-conviction lawyers understand the appeals process – including the grounds for an appeal, which courts hear the appeals, and what legal documents must be filed. After the appeal is filed, we review the government’s response and argue your appeal before the appellate court.

Normally, you have 30 days to file your appeal (normally from the date of the sentencing hearing).

How does an appeal of a federal conviction work?

There are very specific rules and procedures in federal cases regarding post-conviction relief. You might, for example, file a motion to request a new trial. Appeals are generally filed based on mistakes of law at trial, misconduct by the prosecution, ineffective assistance of counsel, and other arguments. At Soroka & Associates, we understand the grounds for appeals of federal convictions, the timelines for filing an appeal, how the appeal is decided, and other federal conviction appeal procedures and legal issues.

Types of post-conviction relief

U.S.C. §2254: Federal Post-Conviction Remedy for State Incarceration

This remedy generally only applies after you have exhausted all your other state remedies. It is usually brought in conjunction with a habeas corpus petition. An example of why a defendant might file this motion is because the prosecution hid or suppressed evidence that was favorable to the defendant, or that the defendant (at trial or an appeal) was represented by a lawyer who was incompetent.

ORC §2953.21: Post-Conviction Relief Petition

This statute sets forth the basis for a post-conviction relief petition. Generally, a defendant can file the petition in the court that imposed the sentence. The petition should set forth the basis for the request and ask that the court vacate or set aside the conviction or the sentence – or order other appropriate relief. The grounds for relief include:

  • “A denial or infringement of the person's rights as to render the judgment void or voidable under the Ohio Constitution or the Constitution of the United States.”
  • In death cases, when the defendant claims that a US or Ohio Constitutional right violation “creates a reasonable probability of an altered verdict.”
  • A defendant was convicted of a felony and DNA evidence establishes:
    • “By clear and convincing evidence, actual innocence of that felony offense or, if the person was sentenced to death, establish[es], by clear and convincing evidence, actual innocence of the aggravating circumstance or circumstances the person was found guilty of committing and that is or are the basis of that sentence of death”

An additional ground applies to an aggravated murder conviction or a death sentence – where the person had a “serious mental illness at the time of the commission of the offense and that as a result, the court should render void the sentence of death…”

U.S.C. §2255: Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence

This option is used in federal cases, and can be used to allege ineffective assistance of counsel. This statute provides that:

A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress claiming the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack, may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

U.S.C. §2241: Writ of habeas corpus

Habeas corpus is a way for a federal court to order that a federal defendant be brought before the court to determine if his or her detention is legal. The writ of habeas corpus is set forth in the US Constitution. A habeas corpus request is normally made after all other post-conviction relief requests have been denied. The request for relief must indicate why the imprisonment is not legal.

Judicial release

Judicial release is a request to the sentencing judge to suspend further incarceration and release an inmate based on a variety of sentencing and rehabilitation factors. We’ll help you develop a plan, collect the necessary letters in support, and prepare a motion to show the court that you are rehabilitated, have used your time in prison wisely to complete available programs, have committed yourself to being a productive citizen,  and ideally have a support system to help you. Generally, you can only seek a judicial release if one of your sentences is a non-mandatory sentence. There are specific time limits for when you can request a judicial release depending on your non-mandatory sentence.

Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea

Both the federal government and Ohio allow you to make a motion to withdraw a guilty plea or a nolo contendere plea.

Under federal law, “A defendant may withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere:

  1. before the court accepts the plea, for any reason or no reason; or
  2. after the court accepts the plea, but before it imposes sentence if:
    1. the court rejects a plea agreement under 11(c)(5); or
    2. the defendant can show a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal.”

Under Ohio law (Rule 32.1 of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure), “A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest may be made only before sentence is imposed; but to correct manifest injustice the court after sentence may set aside the judgment of conviction and permit the defendant to withdraw his or her plea.”

Motion for a new trial

If we believe errors were committed during your trial, we can file a motion for a new trial. The rules for when this applies differ, depending on jurisdiction. Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Procedure states:

  1. The court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues—and to any party—as follows:
    1. after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court; or
    2. after a nonjury trial, for any reason for which a rehearing has heretofore been granted in a suit in equity in federal court.
  1. Further Action After a Nonjury Trial. After a nonjury trial, the court may, on motion for a new trial, open the judgment if one has been entered, take additional testimony, amend findings of fact and conclusions of law or make new ones, and direct the entry of a new judgment.

Per the rule, “A motion for a new trial must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment.”

Ohio’s rules are slightly different, and under Rule 33 of the Ohio Rules of Criminal Procedure:

A new trial may be granted on motion of the defendant for any of the following causes affecting materially his substantial rights:

  1. Irregularity in the proceedings, or in any order or ruling of the court, or abuse of discretion by the court, because of which the defendant was prevented from having a fair trial;
  2. Misconduct of the jury, prosecuting attorney, or the witnesses for the state;
  3. Accident or surprise which ordinary prudence could not have guarded against;
  4. That the verdict is not sustained by sufficient evidence or is contrary to law. If the evidence shows the defendant is not guilty of the degree of crime for which he was convicted, but guilty of a lesser degree thereof, or of a lesser crime included therein, the court may modify the verdict or finding accordingly, without granting or ordering a new trial, and shall pass sentence on such verdict or finding as modified;
  5. Error of law occurring at the trial;
  6. When new evidence material to the defense is discovered which the defendant could not with reasonable diligence have discovered and produced at the trial. When a motion for a new trial is made upon the ground of newly discovered evidence, the defendant must produce at the hearing on the motion, in support thereof, the affidavits of the witnesses by whom such evidence is expected to be given, and if time is required by the defendant to procure such affidavits, the court may postpone the hearing of the motion for such length of time as is reasonable under all the circumstances of the case. The prosecuting attorney may produce affidavits or other evidence to impeach the affidavits of such witnesses.


In Ohio, the Governor has the power to grant you clemency – “an act of mercy or leniency from certain consequences of a criminal conviction” – if the Parole Board recommends it. There are three forms of Executive Clemency:

  • Pardon: A pardon is the remission of a penalty. It is an act of grace or forgiveness that relieves the person pardoned from some or all of the ramifications of lawful punishment. A pardon may be conditional or unconditional. Pardons do not erase or seal a conviction; a pardon forgives guilt.
  • Commutation: Commutation is the reduction of a penalty to one less severe. A commutation may be conditional or unconditional.
  • Reprieve: A reprieve is the temporary postponement of the execution of a sentence.

If you are convicted of a federal crime, only the President of the United States has the power to grant you clemency through a commutation of your sentence, or a pardon. Presidential pardons do not “signify innocence,” per the Department of Justice, but does “remove civil disabilities – e.g., restrictions on the right to vote, hold state or local office, or sit on a jury – imposed because of the conviction for which pardon is sought, and should lessen the stigma arising from the conviction.”

Can your firm help if I’m charged with violating probation?

Our Columbus post-conviction relief lawyers help fight probation revocation violations by arguing that you didn’t violate probation and that even if you did, the violation doesn’t warrant being sent to prison. In probation violation cases, there may be two hearings – the first involving the violation (for example, if you are charged with a theft offense) and the second involving the revocation of your probation.

Do you have a post-conviction relief lawyer near me?

The Columbus office of Soroka & Associates is located at 503 South Front Street, Suite 205. Since many defendants seeking post-conviction relief are in prison, we arrange to meet with people in-custody.

Talk to a Columbus post-conviction relief attorney as soon as possible

Whether we handled your case at trial or you’re seeking help from new counsel, the Columbus attorneys at Soroka & Associates have the experience and skill to assert your post-conviction remedies or the rights of someone you care about. To assert your rights, call us at 614-358-6525 or use our contact form. We serve clients in Columbus and throughout Central Ohio, including in Licking County, Delaware County, Fairfield County, and beyond.