If you were convicted of a serious crime or entered a plea based on laws that subsequently changed, there are a number of steps you can take to possibly receive relief from your sentence. You may obtain conviction or sentencing relief through a direct appeal or some kind of post-conviction petition. At Barhoma Law, renowned California criminal appellate lawyers, alongside Matthew Barhoma, work closely with clients to help them effectively pursue relief under state and/or federal law. Barhoma Law has an impressive track record of success in this exceptionally complex area of the law and provides free consultations to inmates and their family members hoping to learn more about their options.Types of Cases Barhoma Law Handles
As an experienced California criminal appellate lawyer, Attorney Matthew Barhom and his team represent clients in a wide range of challenging and high-stakes cases, including the following practice areas.Criminal Appeals
After a conviction, often, the first avenue of relief is a direct appeal. In filing a direct appeal, you ask a higher court to review the trial court record for legal error and rule on certain legal issues through precedence. Generally, appellate courts defer to the lower court when resolving issues involving credibility, such as whether a witness was believable. However, appellate courts apply a more lenient standard when reviewing potential legal errors. For example, whether the court erroneously allowed the prosecution to introduce harmful evidence or provided the jury with incorrect or confusing instructions.
Direct appeals are typically limited to a review record created at trial. Thus, claims involving newly discovered evidence or an attorney’s ineffectiveness should generally be filed in a post-conviction petition rather than on direct appeal. If you need to appeal your case, time is of the essence. Seek an appellate attorney immediately upon sentencing.State and Federal Writs of Habeas Corpus
Habeas corpus is the procedural mechanism by which an inmate can challenge various aspects of their conviction and/or incarceration. Essentially, by filing a writ of habeas corpus, you are claiming that your continued imprisonment is unlawful and asking the court to fashion a remedy by issuing a Writ. For example, a court may vacate a conviction or sentence, or modify the terms of imprisonment in response to a writ of habeas corpus. Often, post-conviction remedies such as habeas corpus are useful to obtain relief in situations involving after-discovered evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel and claims of actual innocence and prosecutorial misconduct. You can file a writ of habeas corpus in both state and federal court; however, you are generally required to exhaust your state remedies before filing a federal petition. If you believe your case is in need for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, whether in State of Federal court, consulting with an experienced appellate attorney is highly recommended.Resentencing Hearings Under PC 1170(d)
Penal Code 1170(d) allows the court to resentence an inmate in a broad range of circumstances upon a recommendation from California Department of Correctional and Rehabilitation. Under PC 1170(d), the court can vacate a sentence on its own within 120 days, or at any time upon the recommendation of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) or the District Attorney (pursuant to Assembly Bill 2942, discussed below). Because the support of the CDCR or District Attorney is necessary in 1170(d) resentencings, these are most often based on sentencing discrepancies, retractive changes in the law, and exceptional conduct while incarcerated. If you believe your case or a loved ones case needs an 1170(d) application, consulting with a California post-conviction lawyer is highly recommended. Contact Barhoma Law, P.C. today to determine if your case has merit.Sentences of Life Without the Possibility of Parole
A sentence of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) means that an inmate will spend the duration of their life in prison. Courts can only issue LWOP sentences in a very limited set of circumstances involving homicide offenses and certain serious crimes involving aggravated circumstances. However, those facing the prospect of life without the possibility of parole may qualify for relief through a direct appeal, writ of habeas corpus, or a request for clemency. If you or a loved one is serving an LWOP sentence, consult with Barhoma Law, P.C. to determine what, if anything, can be done about your sentence.Resentencing Hearings Under AB 2942
For the past few decades, California took a “tough on crime” approach. However, in more recent years, prosecutors and lawmakers have begun to recognize the deleterious effect of mass incarceration. This led to a situation in which inmates sentenced decades ago are serving sentences that are likely much longer than they would receive had they gone to trial today. AB 2942 allows prosecutors to review older sentences, identifying those that are not proportionate to the crime committed.
You can also visit closely related blogs here.Applications for Commutation of Sentence
Commutation is a way of seeking relief through the executive branch of the government rather than through the judicial branch. In ordering a executive commutation, the governor can reduce an inmate’s sentence, making them immediately eligible for release. Most often, successful commutations are granted for defendants who were given a very harsh sentence or who exhibited exceptional behavior while in custody.Resentencing Hearings Under SB 1437 (PC 1170.95)
Prior to SB 1437, the felony-murder rule allowed the prosecution to bring murder charges against someone who participated in an enumerate felony during the commission of which someone died—even if the accused did not commit the killing. However, SB 1437 limited the first- and second-degree felony murder prosecutions to situations in which:
- You were the actual killer;
- You acted with the intent to kill;
- You were a “major participant” in the crime and acted with “reckless indifference to human life”; or
- You knew the victim was a police officer who was carrying out their duties.
Senate Bill 1437 dramatically changed the California felony-murder rule, opening the door for many inmates to obtain relief from lengthy sentences.Upcoming Initiatives
Recently, California officials proposed a series of criminal justice reforms focused on tackling the disproportionate sentences that lead to mass incarceration. These include:
AB 1509 – Assembly Bill 1509 would drastically reduce the sentencing enhancements for gun crimes.
SB 300 – Senate Bill 300 would amend the state’s felony murder statute, allowing those convicted who under a theory of “reckless indifference to human life” to obtain a resentencing hearing.
SB 81 – Senate Bill 81 significantly limits the use of sentencing enhancements, particularly those based on convictions more than five years old and juvenile offenses.
While these are only proposed laws, they show lawmakers’ willingness to critically examine the state’s existing laws to ensure the fair application of justice.Contact a Criminal Appeals Attorney for Immediate Assistance
If you or someone close to you is seeking relief from a conviction or lengthy term of imprisonment, Barhoma Law can help. Matthew Barhoma is a renowned California criminal appellate lawyer responsible for vacating several convictions and obtaining resentencing hearings for clients who, after trial, feared they may never be released from prison. Regardless of the procedural posture of your case, Barhoma Law can advise you of your options and help you effectively pursue the appropriate relief. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 213-800-7664. Barhoma Law represents clients in Los Angeles County and throughout California.