The Assistance of Counsel Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides important rights for alleged offenders in criminal prosecutions. Under this section of the Sixth Amendment, the accused are afforded the right to counsel of their choice, the right to have counsel appointed if they cannot afford representation, the right to counsel without any conflict of interest, and the right to represent themselves pro se (Latin for “on behalf of themselves”).
One other very important right guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment is an alleged offender’s right to effective counsel, meaning that the accused is entitled to competent legal representation. When attorneys fail to adequately perform their duties to clients, it can result in outcomes that deprive alleged offenders of justice.
People who have been convicted in state or federal courts in Florida have the right to file motions based on ineffective assistance of counsel. As is the case with any appeal of a lower court verdict, such a claim needs to be based on material facts rather than mere dissatisfaction with the result to a particular case.
Do you believe that your criminal case would have had a different result had you been afforded effective counsel? Terrezza Law may be able to file the necessary motions to have your plea vacated and order a new trial.
John Terrezza is a criminal defense attorney in Pensacola who files appeals and seeks other forms of post-conviction relief for clients in such communities as Gulf Breeze, Milton, Navarre, and Pensacola Beach. He can review your case and discuss all of your legal options when you call (850) 764-5291 right now to set up a free, confidential consultation.
In order to have valid ineffective assistance claims, convicted offenders need to demonstrate that their attorneys failed to provide effective assistance and the ultimate outcome could have been different had they been provided effective assistance. A few of the most common forms of ineffective assistance include, but are not limited to:
Post-conviction relief in Florida is governed by the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Rule 3.850 motions seek to vacate convictions, judgments, and sentences based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Rule 3.850 motions have to be filed within two years of the final judgment and sentence, although exceptions may be made in rare cases involving unique circumstances such as the discovery of new evidence or a previous lawyer failing to file such a motion when expected to do so.
Rule 3.850 motions need to contain an explanation of the following:
Rule 3.850 motions are filed in the trial courts where the alleged offenders were convicted. The court reviews the motion to see if the claims are legally sufficient. If the court finds that there may be grounds for legal relief, then a judge will ask the State to respond in writing within a certain period of time.
The judge reviews the State’s response and then either enters a final order dismissing the claims or orders an evidentiary hearing. At this hearing, the State usually asks an alleged offender’s original attorney to testify and can force the alleged offender to testify as well.
After the hearing the judge will issue a final order either granting approval for or denying the claims made in the motion. An alleged offender faces re-trial if successful, but also retains the right to file a direct appeal if the court denies the Rule 3.850 motion claims.
Federal prisoners may be able to file motions to vacate or set aside sentences under 28 U.S. Code § 2255. A 2255 motion needs to be filed within one year of a sentence becoming final (meaning after sentencing when there is no appeal or after the last appellate remedy has been exhausted—although there is an exception called “equitable tolling” for extraordinary circumstances).
A 2255 motion needs to be filed in the same court that the alleged offender was sentenced in, and the same judge that issued the sentence is likely to be the judge who reviews the motion. The judge can either deny the motion or order the government to respond.
After the judge review’s the government’s response, the judge will either deny the motion or holds an evidentiary hearing. After the hearing, the judge can either deny or grant the motion.
If the motion is granted, the court can vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. Charges could also be dismissed and the prisoner may be released.
Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure | The Florida Bar — The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure govern procedure in all criminal proceedings in state courts. In the table of contents, you can click specific sections and read the full text for Rule 3.850 relating to motions to vacate, set aside, or correct sentences. You can also review other sections relating to motions for post-conviction relief, motions for post-conviction DNA testing, and collateral relief.
Strickland v. Washington | Oyez — Strickland v. Washington is a landmark 1984 United States Supreme Court case that established the standard for determining the effectiveness of a defense attorney. Writing for the majority in the 8-1 decision, Sandra Day O'Connor held:
“A convicted defendant's claim that counsel's assistance was so defective as to require reversal of a conviction or setting aside of a death sentence requires that the defendant show, first, that counsel's performance was deficient and, second, that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense so as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial.”
In his dissent, Thurgood Marshall wrote that his “objection to the performance standard adopted by the Court is that it is so malleable that, in practice, it will either have no grip at all or will yield excessive variation in the manner in which the Sixth Amendment is interpreted and applied by different courts.” On the Oyez Project website, you can listen to the oral arguments for this case. You can read the court’s full opinions at the Legal Information Institute website.
If you believe that your trial attorney failure to provide effective legal representation, you owe it to yourself to explore your legal rights. Terrezza Law handles criminal appeals and post-conviction relief for people who have been convicted in state and federal courts in Florida.
John Terrezza is criminal defense attorney in Pensacola who represents clients in Walton County, Santa Rosa County, Escambia County, and Okaloosa County. Call (850) 764-5291 or complete an online contact form to have our lawyer evaluate your case during a free consultation.