Facing a criminal conviction can change your life significantly, forcing you to spend time in jail, among other serious penalties. Some circumstances may cause an unfair conviction arising from improper court procedure or inadequate legal services. If so, you can request vacating or setting aside a conviction to give you a fair retrial or complete acquittal.

You can exercise this right if you strongly believe your conviction was unfair, allowing you to present new evidence and request different legal representation if necessary. When presenting your application for vacating or setting aside a conviction, you must follow multiple legal procedures to ensure you meet the requirements. Based on this, you want to work closely with an experienced criminal attorney who understands the various processes and the importance of filing a persuasive petition.

At California Criminal Lawyer Group, you will work with skilled and experienced criminal defense attorneys ready to support your petition for setting aside a conviction. Our professional analysis and input aim to help you request to vacate a conviction by presenting all relevant facts that the judge should have previously considered. Over the years, our team has helped hundreds of people wrongfully convicted of a crime seek recourse so that you can count on us for reliable defense services. Our team is available to anyone seeking a vacating order in Anaheim, California.

What Vacating or Setting Aside a Conviction Means

Applying for an order to vacate or set aside a conviction means that the presiding judge nullifies the existing decision to convict you. The effect of a setting aside order is to overrule the initial decision, making it incapable of attracting any penalties for you. Once a judge vacates your conviction, it also means that the previous decision can never affect your current status, so the judge rules it out like it was not in existence.

The California Penal Code provides for vacating or setting aside a conviction and recognizes it as a right you can access if you meet all prerequisites. You can thus petition for the court to set aside your conviction under Section 1018 or Section 1473.7 PC. Each provision provides specific circumstances under which you can request the court vacate your conviction, and your attorney can help you determine whether you have a fitting case for either.

Although a vacating or setting aside order positively affects you as the previously convicted person, it does not fully absolve you of your initial charges. Instead, the vacating order serves as a remedy for an unlawful or unprocedural conviction involving denying your constitutional rights. Setting aside the initial conviction will create a clean slate for your trial to begin with proper processes and systems in place.

Alternatively, the prosecutor handling your case may drop the charges altogether, especially if you present new information that challenges their initial claim. Your ability to present the new details comes from your access to previously denied rights or procedural representation.

While you can file a petition to set aside a conviction, the procedure can sometimes be complicated. The presiding judge can only grant the request if you provide sufficient proof of the alleged unfairness in the first trial.

Due to this, you need to engage a skilled attorney to help you review the proceedings and other records of your first trial to identify the specific problem. Doing this gives you a better chance of showing the need for a vacating or setting aside order.

  • Filing a Plea Withdrawal Under Section 1018 PC

The prosecutor may approach you with a plea bargain agreement when facing serious criminal charges that attract severe penalties. The purpose of a plea bargain is to avoid trial by having you admit your offense in exchange for a lighter sentence.

For some, a plea bargain is better than pursuing a full trial, as the proceedings may extend for long durations and legal fees may pile up. The prosecutor can convince you to accept the plea bargain as an ‘easy way out’ compared to the rigorous trial process.

A plea bargain is also beneficial in cases where the prosecutor has overwhelming evidence against you, making it very difficult for you to win your case at trial. You can expect the prosecutor to persuade you of the futile efforts of a trial as they attempt to have you sign a plea bargain agreement.

While many cases conclude with a plea bargain, only some receive a fair exchange. You can request a withdrawal of your plea bargain if you believe that the prosecutor did not offer fair terms, giving you a chance to receive a fair trial.

The four main circumstances that the presiding judge may accept for a withdrawal petition filed under Section 1018 are:

You Entered the Plea Bargain Under Duress or Coercion

The prosecution department should remain ethical in their operations, allowing you to consider all your options as they offer a plea bargain. Despite this, some prosecutors may explore unethical options like coercion or duress to force you into accepting their plea bargain offer.

Their reasons for imposing duress or coercion vary, as some seek to increase their positive case turnover while others may have colluded with malicious third parties. Your attorney should obtain as much information as possible to support your claims during the petition, as the presiding judge intends to decide on your motion based on solid proof.

You can also justify the need for a vacation or setting aside an order by citing the specific threats you faced from the prosecutor. For example, if they disclosed their intention to increase the severity of charges in your case, you can provide proof to help present a strong case.

Sometimes, the prosecution team may use fraud to make you accept a plea bargain by faking your signature or providing false information. For example, if they have you sign a document under the guise that it is for regular court purposes, you can also raise this issue.

You Did Not Have an Attorney When Considering Your Plea Bargain

Legal representation is critical for anyone facing criminal charges, especially when considering a plea bargain. Your criminal defense attorney plays an important role in informing you of your rights and considerations and helping you to make informed decisions.

On the other hand, working without an attorney can expose you to the exploitation that the prosecution department may impose. Thus, You are vulnerable to an unfair plea bargain, facing an improper conviction that significantly affects your life.

You Did Not Understand the Impact of a Plea Bargain

The lack of an attorney may also cause misinformation or a complete lack of access to information related to the plea bargain. The prosecutor’s main goal is to have you accept the bargain, which reflects positively on their professional achievements. They may fail to explain the possible impacts you still face after accepting a plea bargain.

While a plea bargain requires you to accept your criminal obligations in exchange for a more lenient punishment, the outcomes may still be detrimental. The lighter penalties would be in comparison to the punishments available if you were to proceed to trial and do not translate to you avoiding repercussions.

For example, if you are an immigrant, you risk facing deportation for your alleged crime. The outcome can seriously change your family, professional setting, and overall well-being. Without proper information about the possible immigration risks, you may agree to a plea bargain that separates you from your loved ones or causes an abrupt deportation. Filing for plea withdrawal is, therefore, crucial.

Additionally, you can still serve time in jail after accepting a plea bargain. The only difference is that you serve a shorter jail sentence than that issued during the trial. Due to this, you can request the court to revoke your initial plea if you accepted it under the impression that you would not face detention.

Your Attorney Acted Unprofessionally

Some attorneys do not have their client's interests as a priority, and it reflects on their case execution. If you worked with an unprofessional and unethical attorney, you could file a petition to set aside the initial conviction on the grounds of improper representation. The judge should consider your position based on enabling you to access a fair trial, as it is your constitutional right.

Your attorney may underperform on various grounds, including acting in a manner that attracts prejudice to your case. For example, if your past attorney gives the impression that you are guilty of the charges before the trial begins, it affects the trial proceedings. They may do this by making incriminating statements or siding with the prosecutor’s arguments several times.

The presiding judge may also consider your previous attorney’s competence when handling your case by comparing their conduct to the expected legal standard. In doing so, they will consider the following:

  • Your Former Attorney’s Defense Strategy

A criminal defense attorney’s role is to protect their client’s interests during trial by preparing and presenting strong defenses. They must therefore adopt a reasonable defense strategy that demonstrates their efforts to support your case. During your withdrawal petition, the presiding judge will assess your attorney's strategy in pushing you to accept the prosecutor’s plea bargain.

They will also consider whether the attorney could have proceeded to trial and presented a strong defense case, yet they denied you the chance by pushing you to accept the plea. Based on the judge’s assessment, they can determine whether you missed the chance for a fair trial, warranting an order to set aside the conviction.

  • The Court Regulations and Ethical Guidelines Applicable to Lawyers

Your attorney must also follow the court regulations guiding their ethical and legal conduct to protect you from unfair court circumstances. For example, your lawyer must inform you of all their negotiations with the prosecutor regarding your plea bargain. They must also only make decisions on your behalf if you have authorized them.

If the judge finds any ethical or professional oversights by your former attorney, they will issue the vacating order to help you face a retrial. Upon receiving the order, you can engage your current attorney to start the defense preparation process before the court issues a trial start date.

You have a statutory limit of 30 days to file a petition to withdraw your plea or risk forfeiting your right to a retrial or acquittal. The court expects you to present your petition within six months of starting your probation sentence to prevent unnecessary legal penalties and delayed claims.

  • Filing a Petition Under Section 1473.7

You can also petition the court to set aside your conviction after trial, provided you still need to be in custody. The primary basis for filing a vacation order under Section 1473.7 is highlighting any unfair procedures or inconsistencies during the trial that result in an unfair outcome.

As the petitioner, you must provide sufficient evidence of the oversights and how they impacted the judge’s decision to convict you. By making a successful presentation, you can expect to receive the setting aside order and have the prosecutor drop charges or prepare for trial afresh.

The main grounds to file for a vacating order under Section 1473.7 are:

You Faced a Conviction on Discriminatory Grounds

The constitution provides equality and non-discrimination for all people, including anyone facing criminal charges. Based on this, no legal officer, including the judge, should use discriminatory grounds during the trial. Doing so exposes you to prejudice and stereotypical assumptions that may misguide the prosecutor, jury, and judge when determining your case.

Racial discrimination is among the prevalent types that result in an unfair conviction, directly impacting the case outcome. Your defense attorney should help you identify any indications of racial discrimination you may have faced during the trial and support your claims with evidence. Strong evidence sources will increase your chances of a favorable outcome, so your legal team can assess the previous trial records for any findings.

Similarly, national and ethnic discrimination are grounds for petitioning to set your conviction aside. You will likely face an unfair conviction if you are an immigrant, exposing you to prejudicial notions that affect the court’s impartiality.

The Trial Proceedings Involved Procedural Oversight

Procedural oversights may also occur, limiting your right to a fair trial and exposing you to an unfair conviction. Oversights often involve the non-disclosure of your rights as an arrested person facing trial, involving the prosecutor and the judge.

For example, the judge should have informed you of your right to legal representation and access to free legal services before the trial began. You may have missed access to legal representation by failing to provide the details, resulting in an improperly defended case. Seeking the withdrawal order can grant access to a retrial, whereby you will appear before the court with a better understanding of your rights.

Your attorney may have also failed to conduct due diligence on the nature of the prosecutor’s plea bargain, causing you to face an unfair conviction. Further, they may have acted prejudicially during the trial despite refusing the prosecutor’s plea bargain, causing them to face an unfair trial. Therefore, your new attorney’s role is to show that the prosecutor and your past attorney did not put your interests first, exposing you to an unfair conviction.

You Have New Evidence to Present in Support of Your Case

Your previous trial may have also been unfair if you had limited resources and access to evidence, preventing you from presenting a strong case. If you needed an attorney to represent you at trial, you would have faced these circumstances.

Based on this, the judge can assess several conditions to determine whether the new evidence you seek to provide will be impactful. For example, if the new evidence is likely to shift the previous decision in your favor, the current judge can order a retrial after setting aside the current decision. In doing so, they secure your right to a fair hearing and a favorable case outcome with all evidence considered.

The judge will also consider whether your past attorney could have reasonably obtained the evidence and whether your current attorney can retrieve it without delay. Making these assessments is important because they guide your case's progression. If your defense lawyer can provide leads on where they intend to access the new evidence, you have better chances of a favorable outcome.

Options to Consider If the Court Denies Your Petition to Vacate Your Conviction

Although you may present all the necessary information to persuade the judge to vacate a conviction, they still have discretion when determining your case. As a result, they can deny your motion, meaning that you will proceed to face the existing penalties against you.

Despite this, you can consider several recourse processes to help you receive the attention and consideration your case requires. Your attorney may advise you to:

Appeal the Judge’s Decision Directly in Court

An appeal case can be suitable after the judge’s verdict, allowing you to present your issues again for new consideration. You can present the appeal case to a new judge for a fresh assessment, giving you the possibility of receiving a vacation order. However, some court regions have limited staff, meaning that the same judge who denied your petition may still handle the appeal.

Based on the possibility of presenting your facts to the same judge, you must consolidate your appeal better than your initial petition. Your attorney will help you strengthen your case and make it more persuasive for the appeal.

You must also ensure that all grounds for appeal are acceptable and based on factual interests instead of any other perceptions you had in the first petition. By revising the appeal grounds, you demonstrate your objectivity in court, giving you a better chance of receiving a favorable case outcome.

File a Petition for Record Expungement

If filing a petition is not a strong option to consider, you can also file for a record expungement as provided for under Section 1203.4. Although the option is helpful, filing for an expungement does not prevent you from facing penalties for the initial conviction you faced. As a result, you will serve a sentence, and you can only apply for the expungement after the court closes your case.

Nevertheless, an expungement is helpful because it conceals your criminal records from the general public. You have a better chance of returning to your everyday life and rebuilding your career or academic progress, as employers and school administrators cannot access your criminal records. However, sex offenders for crimes involving children and persons working in public office are still subject to scrutiny.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

An unfair conviction violates your constitutional rights, subjecting you to unnecessary detention and other penalties. You, therefore, have the avenue to challenge your conviction if you strongly believe that it was unfair. The unfairness may arise from procedural oversights or improper legal representation. Regardless of the reasons, you need to follow the correct court procedure and persuade the judge hearing your petition to review your conviction.

Doing this increases your chances of a successful outcome, bringing you one step closer to a retrial where necessary. Working with a skilled attorney is also advantageous, as they have all the relevant information on navigating the petition to set aside your conviction. Based on this, you want to find a trusted defense attorney to handle your case and guide you until completion.

At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we provide quality legal services to help you file a petition to set aside your conviction. Our team is ready to assess all proceedings in your past trial and correct any oversights or underperformances by your previous legal team. You can also count on us to provide case updates, and give insights on preparing for the subsequent steps. Your assigned attorney is also ready to represent you in the event of a retrial, giving you an easier time when pushing your defense. If you or a loved one requires legal services to set aside a conviction in Anaheim, California, call us at 714-766-0965.