The Post Conviction Defenders Division (formerly Collateral Review Division) is dedicated to ensuring fairness in criminal convictions and protecting the integrity of our criminal justice system. We represent indigent inmates at post-conviction proceedings throughout the state of Maryland. Representation on writs of actual innocence is discretionary, but we will review claims and determine whether we can assign counsel.
In 1975, Maryland's Office of the Public Defender created the Inmate Services Division to provide representation to indigent criminal defendants at post conviction proceedings throughout the state. In 1993, the division officially changed it's name to the Collateral Review Division. In September, 2015, the division again changed its name to the current name - Post Conviction Defenders Division.
WHO WE ARE
What is a "Post Conviction"?
Persons convicted in a Maryland state court and are presently serving a sentence, or on parole or probation as a result of the conviction, may pursue post conviction relief. (Uniform Post Conviction Procedure Act, Maryland Code, Criminal Procedure, §7-101). Post conviction relief is available to persons who pled guilty or were convicted by a jury or a judge. Each qualifying person is entitled to counsel and one hearing in the circuit court where the client was convicted. (Uniform Post Conviction Procedure Act, Maryland Code, Criminal Procedure, §7-108) A judge (other than the judge that presided at the original trial or plea) will be appointed to hold a hearing and issue a ruling.
The most common allegation pursued in post conviction proceedings is that the client did not receive effective assistance of counsel at trial, sentencing, post-sentencing, or for a guilty plea or violation of probation hearing. Other potential allegations include: involuntary plea, prosecutorial misconduct, etc. Remedies may include: new trial, new sentencing, correction of sentence, and permission to file belated post-trial motions.
Typically, post conviction hearings are held after an appeal has been decided in a case. However, the failure to pursue an appeal after a conviction does not necessarily preclude a person from pursuing post conviction relief.
Post conviction hearings are held in the circuit court where the client was convicted. A judge (other than the judge that presided at the original trial or plea) will be appointed to hold a hearing and issue a ruling.
Do I Qualify for Post Conviction Relief and Representation?
In order to qualify for post conviction relief, the client must be serving a sentence of incarceration, or on parole or probation for that conviction. (Uniform Post Conviction Procedure Act, Maryland Code, Criminal Procedure, §7-101)
A petition must be filed in the circuit court where the client was convicted within 10 years from the date of sentencing. However, if the client was sentenced prior to October 1, 1995, there is no deadline in which to file the petition. (Uniform Post Conviction Procedure Act, Maryland Code, Criminal Procedure, §7-103)
You have the right to one post conviction hearing per conviction. If you have already had a post conviction that was denied, you do not have the automatic right to another hearing on any subsequently filed post conviction petitions. You also do not have the right to counsel to represent you on subsequent post convictions.
If your appeal is currently pending before the Court of Special Appeals or the Court of Appeals, you are not entitled to post conviction counsel until the appeal has been concluded. (Uniform Post Conviction Procedure Act, Maryland Code, Criminal Procedure, §7-108).
Persons who are incarcerated may apply to Post Conviction Defenders for legal representation in filing a post conviction petition. Incarcerated individuals automatically qualify for post conviction services. Persons who are not incarcerated, but are on parole and/or probation, may also apply for legal representation, but have to qualify for services depending on income and other factors.
You may file a post conviction petition on your own, or apply to Post Conviction Defenders Division to have an attorney file a petition for you. If you decide to file the petition yourself, you are still entitled to legal representation from this office, which entails reviewing your case, adding other potential issues if necessary, and representation at any future hearing.
How to Apply for Post Conviction Assistance
If you or your family member is serving a Maryland sentence and want to know what their options are, please contact the Post Conviction Defenders either by letter, phone or email. The mailing address is: Post Conviction Defenders, 217 E. Redwood Street, Suite 1020, Baltimore, MD 21202. The phone number is: 410.209.8600. Be sure to include the inmate's full name, case number, and DOC or detention center location.
If you file your own post conviction petition, but would still like representation from our office, the Clerk of the Court will send us a copy of your petition as soon as it has been filed. We will then contact you and provide you with the necessary forms. It is not necessary to apply to our office before filing your petition.
How to Apply for Representation for a Parole Revocation Hearing
If you are requesting representation for a parole revocation hearing, it is not necessary that you apply to our office. At your preliminary parole revocation hearing, request to be represented by an attorney. The hearing will be postponed to a future date, and an attorney from our office will automatically be assigned to represent you at the upcoming hearing.
If you are requesting representation for other proceedings, such as writ of error coram nobis, state habeas corpus, or motion to reopen post conviction proceedings, please write a detailed letter (and send it to 217 E. Redwood Street, Suite 1020, Baltimore MD 21202) explaining the details of your conviction and the issues you wish to present. Be sure to provide any appropriate court documentation and/or transcripts that substantiate your claims. Please know that representation on these motions is discretionary and you are not automatically entitled to representation from this office.