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Post Conviction Relief- Guilty Pleas

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A concession of guilt does not, per se, foreclose a prisoner access to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA).

By Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Post Conviction Counsel, Harrisburg, PA 

A concession of guilt does not, per se, foreclose a prisoner access to the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA).  (See link to PCRA relief generally).  Relief is available under the PCRA if the petitioner proves by a preponderance of the evidence, inter alia, that the petitioner's plea of guilty was unlawfully induced where the circumstances make it likely that the inducement caused the petitioner to plead guilty and the petitioner is innocent.  In addition, a challenge to the plea may be appended to an additional allegation which is appropriate for consideration under the postconviction statute, such as ineffective counsel.  In fact, allegations that counsel misadvised a criminal defendant in the plea process are properly determined under the ineffectiveness-of-counsel subsection of the PCRA, not the section specifically governing guilty pleas.  The standard for postsentence withdrawal of guilty pleas dovetails with the arguable merit/prejudice requirements for relief based on a claim of ineffective assistance of plea counsel, under which the defendant must show that counsel's deficient stewardship resulted in a manifest injustice, for example, by facilitating entry of an unknowing, involuntary, or unintelligent plea. 

Where a defendant enters a guilty plea, all claims which he or she might otherwise raise on appeal can be raised in a collateral postconviction hearing proceeding. 

PCRA Not the Proper Vehicle to Challenge Parole Revocations

The Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) is not the proper vehicle with which to seek review of administrative decisions of the Board of Probation and Parole.  Such a proceeding is not an appropriate remedy for attacking the revocation of parole by the parole board because a parole revocation is neither a conviction nor a sentence but an administrative proceeding, and parole questions are in the appellate jurisdiction of the Commonwealth court.  A petition alleging that fundamental changes to the criteria used for granting parole retroactively extended the petitioner's confinement in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause is not reviewable within the context of the PCRA, given that it is not an attack on either his or her conviction or sentence but rather on his or her continued confinement. 

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