Post-Conviction Relief (a.k.a. “PCR”) is a proceeding that allows a convicted person to file a civil action against the State in which the petitioner (i.e. the person who is in prison) argues that their conviction was obtained in violation of their constitutional rights. PCR claims most commonly arise from violations of an individual’s Sixth Amendment rights – one of which is their right to counsel. We’ve all seen episodes of the television show, “Cops.” Right before someone is taken into custody by the police, the police read out a little script that starts out with “You have the right to remain silent.” This little script, known as your “Miranda Rights,” are the constitutional rights you are entitled to as someone being charged with a crime. One of those rights is that you are entitled to a lawyer. The Constitution takes this right so seriously that even if you cannot afford a lawyer, one must be given to you. The Sixth Amendment guarantees that an individual accused of a crime has the right to be represented by an attorney. In situations where an individual has a lawyer (whether appointed or retained) and their attorney makes such an obvious error that it is like the defendant had no attorney at all, this is a violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
A post-conviction relief proceeding argues that your original lawyer’s performance was so ineffective, it is almost as if you never had one.
The legal term that is used for an attorney making such an error is “ineffective assistance of counsel.” In an ineffective assistance of counsel PCR claim, the petitioner must show that their lawyer made a mistake that is objectively unreasonable, and that they likely would not have been convicted if the lawyer had not made the mistake. For more information about South Carolina PCR proceedings, see our articles “Federal Criminal Appeals in South Carolina” and “State Court Criminal Appeals in South Carolina.”