Post-conviction relief in Arizona are legal options where defendants can try to get their criminal convictions vacated, sentences reduced, and/or rights restored. There are often short time constraints to pursue post-conviction relief, so defendants are advised to talk to their attorneys as soon as possible to discuss the best path forward.
In this article, our Arizona criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. Motion to Withdraw a Plea
- 2. Motion for a New Trial
- 3. Appeal
- 4. Writ of Habeas Corpus
- 5. Early Termination of Probation
- 6. Sentence Commutation
- 7. Set Aside
- 8. Restoration of Civil Rights
- 9. Pardon
1. Motion to Withdraw a Plea
Arizona judges allow defendants to take back their guilty pleas (or no contest pleas) in order to “correct a manifest injustice.” Potential examples are that the defendant’s attorney did not explain their options, or that the defendant was not informed that probation was unavailable.
If a judge accepts a defendant’s motion to withdraw a plea, then the defendant is free to take a different plea or go to trial.1
2. Motion for a New Trial
Defendants who were convicted at trial can ask the judge for a do-over by filing a “motion for a new trial.” Typical grounds for requesting a new trial are juror misconduct, judicial misconduct, or prosecutorial misconduct. In Arizona, defendants must submit a motion for a new trial within 10 days of the verdict.2
Defendants may appeal their criminal sentences or conviction to a higher court. For example, someone convicted in the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County could appeal the case to the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1. Then the case could be appealed again to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Appeals are not do-overs. Instead, appellate judges review the lower court’s decisions and decide whether to affirm, modify, reverse, and/or remand.3
4. Writ of Habeas Corpus
Arizona defendants who lose their appeal typically try a writ of habeas corpus next. This is where defendants argue that their incarceration is unlawful. Common arguments are that new evidence exonerates the defendant, or that the defendant had ineffective assistance of counsel. Judges rarely grant writs of habeas corpus, but they are still worth trying.4
5. Early Termination of Probation
Arizona probationers may be able to get off of probation early as long as they completed half their probation sentence, paid all their fines, completed any court-ordered classes and treatment, and passed any drug test requirements.
Most courts will grant petitions for early termination of probation as long as the requirements have been met. But courts typically take three-to-four months to make a decision.5
6. Sentence commutation
Certain Arizona State Prison inmates may be eligible to apply to have their sentence commuted (shortened) if their sentence was clearly excessive. Inmates must submit their applications through the ADC (Arizona Department of Corrections). Eligible applications are then transferred to the Board of Executive Clemency, which will schedule a hearing on the matter.6
Click here for the Commutation of Sentence application.
7. Set Aside
Arizona does not permit criminal arrest or conviction records to be expunged or sealed. Instead, people can petition the court that handled their case for a “set aside.” “Set asides” show up on all future background checks next to the criminal matter that was “set aside.”7
Court websites usually have “set aside” applications available online.
8. Restoration of Civil Rights
People with one felony conviction in Arizona automatically get their civil rights restored (not including gun rights) following probation or absolute discharge from imprisonment. In order to restore gun rights – or to restore other civil rights following two or more felony convictions – people must formally apply for a Restoration of Civil Rights.8
People can request an application from the Superior Court where they were convicted.
An Arizona Governor’s pardon provides convicted felons relief from any penalties and disabilities associated with the felony. Typically the Governor grants pardons only to people who have demonstrated significant rehabilitation and have led productive lives since the conviction. Like a Restoration of Civil Rights, a pardon can restore gun and voting rights.9
Click here for instructions on how to apply for a pardon in Arizona.
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 17.5.
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure 24.1.
- See, e.g. ARS 22-371.
- ARS 13-4144.
- Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. 27.4.
- ARS 31-402; see also McDonald v. Thomas, (2002) 202 Ariz. 35, 40 P.3d 819, 367 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 30.
- ARS 13-907; see also United States v. Simpson, (9th Cir., 2006) 442 F.3d 737.
- ARS 13-904, et seq.
- ARS 31-441 – 442.