One of the most complex areas of criminal practice is the area of post-conviction relief. In federal criminal cases, the fight to correct errors that harmed defendants got even tougher in 1996 when Congress passed a law making it even harder for defendants to get back into court. Only a select number of attorneys regularly practice in the area of criminal post-conviction relief, and our office is one of them, consistently fighting for relief for those who have already been convicted and sentenced.
In the federal system, two of the most common post-conviction actions are motions for new trial and for correction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. A popular argument for the § 2255 motion is that the client's former attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel. Although often raised, this type of argument can be difficult to win. To increase the chances of success, it is important to demonstrate credibility in the motion overall, to avoid frivolous claims, and to make complaints only where correction of the error would change the outcome of the client's case. Thus, it is important to proceed with counsel experienced in making these arguments.
With the recent and upcoming changes to punishment for crimes involving cocaine base (crack), another key post-conviction filing in the federal courts is a motion for reduction of sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Our firm has had success with those motions in the past. (See, e.g., United States v. Cassel Dixon, 97-cr-13 (W.D. N.C. 2009) (successful § 3582 motion resulting in reduction of sentence from 210 months to 168 months even though government opposed the motion); United States v. Demond Jackson, 99-cr-15-05 (S.D. WV 2009); United States v. William Shorter, 98-cr-192 (E.D. Va. 2008) (successful § 3582 motion resulting in reduction of sentence form 262 months to sentence below the 20-year mandatory minimum, at 210 months); United States v. Waverly Jordan, 04-cr-25 (W.D. Va. 2008) (successful § 3582 motion resulting in reduction of sentence from 282 months to 237 months); United States v. Jesse Johnson, 06-cr-48 (E.D. Va. 2009) (successful § 3582 motion resulting in reduction of sentence from 192 months to 131 months). We hope that Congress passes additional changes so that our clients have the opportunity to seek further sentence reductions under § 3582 and/or § 2255.