For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 23

PCRA Fundamentals
Robert Perkins, Stephanie M. Noel and Brandon Ging

T

he Post-Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") is
tremendously important to the criminal
defense bar's efforts to protect
Pennsylvanians' rights to due process and fair
administration of the criminal laws. Indeed, the
PCRA process is the "sole means of obtaining
collateral relief" after direct review completes.1
The PCRA thus provides defendants with their
absolute last chance to obtain relief from a
conviction or sentence in Pennsylvania's state
courts. As a general rule, moreover, many
important constitutional claims - such as
defense counsel's ineffective assistance at trial2 -
essentially can only be raised through the PCRA.
"[F]irst time PCRA petitioners have a ... right

to counsel."3 Most commonly, the proceeding
commences after direct review concludes and the
petitioner files a petition pro se. The PCRA court
then appoints counsel, with instructions to either
file a counseled amended petition or no-merit
letter.4
Regardless of the facial merits of claims
raised in a pro se PCRA petition, PCRA counsel
must "review [a petitioner's] case zealously."5
To this end, PCRA counsel must complete
an "independent review of the record" to
determine whether any non-frivolous claims
may be raised on petitioner's behalf.6 Thus,
even if the pro se petitioner, a non-lawyer, fails
to raise any valid claims, PCRA counsel - who is

Vol. 3, Issue 1

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For The Defense

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018

Contents
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 1
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 2
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - Contents
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 4
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 5
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 6
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 7
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 8
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 9
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 10
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 11
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 12
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 13
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For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 15
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For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 17
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 18
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 19
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 20
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 21
For the Defense - Volume 3, Issue 1 - 2018 - 22
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