Collateral review is a term that refers to a legal process in which a defendant seeks to challenge their conviction or sentence based on claims not raised during their direct appeal. It is also known as collateral attack or collateral challenge. Typically, a collateral review is brought under a state or federal post-conviction relief statute, habeas corpus, or a motion for a new trial in order to challenge the validity of a criminal judgment.
In the United States, collateral review is a critical component of the criminal justice system. It provides an avenue for defendants to challenge their conviction or sentence based on new evidence, errors made by their trial counsel or appellate counsel, or constitutional violations. The process can be complex and time-consuming, but it can also be the last hope for a defendant who has exhausted all other legal avenues.
The primary purpose of collateral review is to ensure that the defendant received a fair and just trial in accordance with the law. This includes ensuring that the defendant's constitutional rights were not violated during the trial, such as their right to effective assistance of counsel, due process, and a fair trial. Additionally, collateral review allows defendants to bring forth new evidence that was not available at the time of their trial, such as DNA evidence or new witness testimony.
To file a collateral review, a defendant must first identify the grounds for their claim. This could include ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, newly discovered evidence, or a violation of the defendant's constitutional rights. Once the grounds for the claim have been identified, the defendant must then file a petition or motion with the appropriate court.
The court will then review the petition or motion and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a hearing. If the court finds that there is enough evidence, a hearing will be scheduled, and both the defendant and the state will be given the opportunity to present their arguments and evidence. If the court finds in favor of the defendant, they may be granted a new trial or a reduced sentence.
It is important to note that collateral review is not a guaranteed path to exoneration or a reduced sentence. In many cases, the court will find that the defendant's claims are without merit, and the original conviction or sentence will stand. However, for those who have exhausted all other legal options, collateral review can provide a glimmer of hope for justice.
One of the most common grounds for a collateral review is ineffective assistance of counsel. This occurs when the defendant's trial counsel fails to provide adequate representation, such as failing to investigate crucial evidence, failing to call important witnesses, or failing to object to improper evidence or statements made by the prosecution. To prove ineffective assistance of counsel, the defendant must show that their attorney's actions or omissions fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different if not for these actions or omissions.
Another common ground for a collateral review is the discovery of new evidence. This could include DNA evidence that was not available at the time of the trial, or new witness testimony that was previously unknown. To be admissible in a collateral review, the new evidence must be both material and non-cumulative. Material evidence is evidence that is relevant to the defendant's guilt or innocence, and non-cumulative evidence is evidence that is not merely duplicative of evidence presented at the trial.
Collateral review can also be used to challenge the constitutionality of a conviction or sentence. This could include claims of racial or religious discrimination, violations of due process, or violations of the defendant's right to a fair trial. To prove a constitutional violation, the defendant must show that their rights were violated during the trial, and that the violation had a substantial and injurious effect on the outcome of the trial.
Collateral review is an important legal process that provides defendants with an avenue to challenge their conviction or sentence based on claims not raised during their direct appeal. It is a critical component of the criminal justice system and serves to ensure that defendants receive a fair and just trial in accordance with the law. While the process can be complex and time-consuming, it can also provide a glimmer of hope for justice for those who have exhausted all other legal options.