Personal Restraint Petitions (PRP)
Most people are familiar with the idea of appealing a criminal conviction, but did you know that Washington has another process for challenging a conviction? This process, called a Personal Restraint Petition (“PRP”), allows you to argue that your conviction and/or sentence is unlawful, and even allows you to submit new evidence in the process. You can file a Personal Restraint Petition even if you lose your appeal.
A PRP must normally be filed in the Court of Appeals. The Court will grant your petition if you are under some form of “restraint” and the restraint is “unlawful.” Being under “restraint” means in custody, but may also mean other forms of restraint, like if your liberty is otherwise restricted because of a conviction. The restraint may be “unlawful” if (1) the court lacked jurisdiction, (2) the conviction or sentence was obtained or imposed in violation of the Constitution or other law, (3) there was evidence that wasn't presented that should have presented, (4) there has been a significant change in the law that applies retroactively, (5) the conditions of confinement violate the Constitution or other laws, or (6) if “other grounds” exist to challenge the conviction.
One of the key differences between an appeal and a PRP is that a PRP allows you to submit new evidence that was not presented at trial or during your appeal. Accordingly, one of the most common claims for a PRP is a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. An ineffective assistance of counsel claim allows you to argue that your trial lawyer provided representation that was so deficient that it fell below a reasonable professional standard. If the Court agrees that your trial lawyer was deficient, and that the deficiency prejudiced your case, then the Court may grant you post-conviction relief in your PRP. To support your claim of ineffective assistance, or other claims, you may even be entitled in some cases to a special hearing to present evidence about the deficient representation or other defect.
However, a PRP can't be obtained without meeting a number of legal requirements. In addition, a PRP must normally be filed within one year of the date that the conviction becomes final on direct review. RCW 10.73.090. Exceptions to that requirement include (1) when the petition relies on newly discovered evidence that could not reasonably have been discovered earlier; (2) the statute of conviction was unconstitutional; (3) the conviction violates double jeopardy; (4) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support conviction; or (6) there has been a significant change in the law that applies retroactively. RCW 10.73.100.
As you can see, it is very possible to be successful with a PRP, but there are a lot of complicated requirements that control when and how a PRP can be filed, and what a PRP must contain. Don't leave your PRP up to chance. Make sure that you have a good lawyer on your side to help you navigate the complex legal landscape of a PRP. The attorneys of Tomlinson Bomsztyk Russ stand ready to assist you in this endeavor. Call Tomlinson Bomsztyk Russ today.