The Fight is Not Over: Post-Conviction Relief Part III

Time is of the Essence

Aside from very limited exceptions enumerated within the post-conviction statute and discussed below, a person in custody under a sentence of a court of this state (Tennessee) must petition for post-conviction relief under this part within one (1) year of the date of the final action of the highest state appellate court to which an appeal is taken or, if no appeal is taken, within one (1) year of the date on which the judgment became final, or consideration of the petition shall be barred. The statute of limitations shall not be tolled for any reason, including any tolling or saving provision otherwise available at law or equity. Time is of the essence of the right to file a petition for post-conviction relief or motion to reopen established by this chapter, and the one-year limitations period is an element of the right to file the action and is a condition upon its exercise. Tenn. Code Ann. 40-30-102(a).

Exceptions to the 1 year Requirement

There are three narrow statutory exceptions to the statute of limitations in post-conviction matters. These exceptions are set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-102(b)(1), (2) & (3):(1) claims based on an appellate court ruling concerning a constitutional right not recognized at the time of the trial and given retroactive effect by the appellate courts; (2) claims based upon newly discovered evidence which establishes that the petitioner is actually innocent of the crime; and (3) claims which arise out of a situation where the petitioner received an enhanced sentence for a crime based on previous convictions which were later held to be invalid. In addition to the exceptions set out in the statute, the courts in this State have found that due process concerns can toll the statute of limitations in certain factual situations. Williams v. State, 44 S.W.3d 464 (Tenn.2001); Sands v. State, 903 S.W.2d 297 (Tenn.1995); Burford v. State, 845 S.W.2d 204 (Tenn.1992).

You Need to Act

If you have been convicted of a crime and want to explore post-conviction relief, it will benefit you to consult with a lawyer who has experience in this area. As the legislature succinctly put it—time is of the essence. In all honesty, post-conviction relief may be your last chance to remedy a wrongful conviction. Due to the demanding burden of proof, the reasonableness standard of review the Court will implore, and the time-sensitive nature of these matters, it is extremely important to hire a lawyer that has both trial experience and experience in post-conviction matters to handle your case.

Blake Bratcher is an Associate Attorney at Freeman and Fuson.