Appeals and Post-Conviction Attorney

Jonathan Laurans is an award-winning appeals attorney who also focuses his practice on post-conviction & federal criminal cases. Mr. Laurans is an appeals attorney who has been litigating criminal & civil appeals and post-conviction “habeas corpus” cases in several states and in our federal court system for 25 years. Mr. Laurans understands that what clients want most is an appeals lawyer who is easily accessible and who makes appellate, post-conviction and criminal defense law fully understandable and accessible for them. As his client, you will never be obstructed, ignored, or stonewalled by secretaries or legal staffers. Mr. Laurans will personally communicate with you at all times, and work hand-in-hand with you as he researches, investigates, and defends your criminal, appellate or post-conviction case.

Whether you are accused of a crime, have recently been found guilty, or are already serving time, you need a criminal defense attorney to assert and protect your rights, and who is familiar and experienced with the appellate and post-conviction processes at the state and federal level. Appellate and post-conviction law is riddled with legal intricacies that depend upon the unique details of each case. You need an experienced appeals attorney willing to listen to your story, and then investigate the evidence, conduct rigorous legal research, construct a winning defense, and then deliver all of it in a clear and cogent manner to your judges and/or jurors. Only an experienced defense attorney can do all these things to maximize the possibility of a positive legal outcome for your case.

If you are charged with a crime, don’t let fear overwhelm you. There are laws designed to protect you. We are told from an early age that anyone accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty, and that defendants are guaranteed a fair trial. But we are not told that the prosecution is not the party responsible for ensuring that you receive justice. The reality is that your defense attorney is the person most responsible for ensuring recognition of your legal rights, and your entitlement to fair treatment and trial. If you select the wrong appellate or post-conviction attorney, your rights can be all but lost, and the consequences will often last a lifetime.

Jonathan Laurans - Federal Appeals & Post-Conviction Attorney

Practice Areas

If you are charged with a crime, contact the Law Office of Jonathan Laurans for a free consultation.

If you have been found guilty of a crime, the fight is far from over. There are legal procedures available to overturn unfair verdicts and sentences. Appeals and post-conviction statutes and rules empower competent and knowledgeable defense attorneys with the procedural tools to shine light on certain details of your case, and to argue that the trial or punishment was unfair. If any part of the trial or sentence infringed upon your rights, you may have legal recourse. If you have been found guilty, you need an experienced appellate attorney to fight for you. The Law Office of Jonathan Laurans is ready to listen to your story, and help you find the justice you deserve.

If you (or a friend, or family member) are already in prison, don’t lose hope. There are laws to protect prisoners as well as legal ways to reduce your remaining sentence. If your imprisonment is unfair or inhumane, you may have grounds for a post-conviction “habeas corpus” case. In these situations, an experienced post-conviction attorney can seek reduced sentences, pursue exonerating evidence, or contest inhumane conditions. If you feel your imprisonment is unfair or inhumane, you want an experienced post-conviction attorney fighting for your freedom. The Law Office of Jonathan Laurans is ready to take your case.

  • Federal Criminal Defense

    If you are charged with a federal crime, you should only hire a criminal defense lawyer who is able to provide you with proof of winning experience in federal courts. However, too many defendants hire criminal defense attorneys who rarely, if ever, have handled federal cases, let alone ever win. Ask the attorneys you are considering to provide you with a list of their cases and victories, and scrutinize them carefully. Or empower yourself by conducting your own search on the United States government website PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) which tracks all federal cases. Searches can be conducted by attorney name to uncover an attorney’s wealth (or dearth) of federal litigation experience.

    Above all, remember that a federal criminal defense lawyer should work with the accused, develop arguments to build a strong defense, and protect the rights of the accused throughout the legal process. Your criminal defense lawyer should not only put together your side of the story, but your lawyer is also responsible for challenging the prosecution’s version as well. Your defense lawyer should be attempting to uncover any and all legal errors committed by the arresting police officers, the detectives and federal agents, the prosecutors, the court, or even another defense attorney previously representing the accused.

    More information on this topic can be learned from reading about federal criminal defense practice here.

  • Criminal Appeals

    People convicted of a crime can seek legal recourse through the appellate (appeals) courts. These courts of appeals are designed to examine judgments issued in the lower trial courts. The appellate process at this stage – known as “direct appeals” – is designed for the defendant’s appellate attorney to uncover legal errors committed by the prosecution or the trial judge. If your conviction was the result of a legal error, your conviction and/or sentence can be overturned and “remanded” back to the lower court for a new trial, or for a mitigated or reduced sentence, or even for the entire case against you to be dismissed altogether.

    Read more about criminal appeals here.

  • Civil Appeals

    People who lose a civil suit also have a chance to appeal the adverse decision, and seek further justice. This appellate process is significantly different than the “direct appeals” process in criminal cases. Civil appeals are comprised of specific rules, and only certain arguments are allowed. New arguments waived or abandoned at the trial stage of proceedings generally cannot be heard in an appellate court if they are not raised until the appellate-review level of litigation. So, it is imperative that you hire an experienced appellate attorney who knows how to investigate the record of the original civil case in hopes of finding any and all legal errors “properly preserved” so that there may be grounds for a reversal of the trial court’s judgment against you. In this regard, remember that, because the outcome of civil appeals most often affects the client’s economic condition, analysis and strategy must be constantly revisited between attorney and client. Thus, the key here is for the client to make sure that the appellate attorney selected is often, if not always, available for consultation.

    Read more about civil appeals here.

  • Post-Conviction Litigation

    In all states and within the federal system, there are rules and procedures which provide for a second layer of review for a defendant wrongly convicted, after the defendant’s “direct appeal” has been turned down by the court of appeals. Remember, the appellate courts review whether a prosecutor or judge committed an error during trial or at sentencing which affected the outcome of those proceedings. But nowhere in that strata of litigation is there a review mechanism for a defendant who lost his or her case because of the poor performance of his or her own attorney. This is known as ineffective assistance of counsel, and is the primary (but not exclusive) focus of what is known as post-conviction litigation. Post-conviction proceedings are commenced within a certain time after a defendant has lost his or her first round of appeals (the “direct appeal”). Cold cases (those which have been completed or even “closed” for years) also can sometimes be re-opened with post-conviction laws. Only certain arguments are allowed, though. This area of law is hyper-technical. Here, the actions of the original defense attorney(s) can be questioned and deemed inadequate, inept or unlawful.

    Defendants have the right, under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, to a competent defense. If a reviewing post-conviction court finds the original defense was incompetently handled, there can be a retrial, a reduction of sentence, or even a compete dismissal of charges for which the accused had been previously convicted. The federal court system provides for post-conviction review of guilty findings and sentences through a series of statutes, the most pertinent being Chapter 28 of the United States Code, Section 2255, otherwise known as 28 U.S.C. 2255. Likewise, all states have procedures in place to provide at least one round of post-conviction review to ensure the fairness and integrity of a conviction and/or sentence.

    In Kansas, post-conviction litigation is referred to as a “1507” case because the right to review derives from Kansas Statute 60-1507. In Missouri, post-conviction litigation arises under one or more Missouri Supreme Court procedures, known as “Rule 24.035” or “Rule 29.15” or “Rule 91”.

    On top of these procedural avenues open by state law to potentially provide remedy against a wrongful conviction or excessive sentence imposed by a state court, there is an additional layer of review for state convictions and sentences, examined by the federal court system. This final tier of review derives from power granted to federal judges by Congress in 28 U.S.C. 2254 (referred to as “AEDPA” review).

    Read more about post-conviction relief, or, view our post-conviction results here.

  • Writs of Habeas Corpus

    Inmates have certain rights. A writ of habeas corpus (one of the most common forms of post-conviction litigation) forces a court to hear, and often reconsider, an inmate’s case. This form of post-conviction litigation can also be used in some instances to assert claims of unfair prison treatment. Exercising your Habeas Corpus rights can reduce an inmate’s prison sentence, or result in moving prisons.

    Read more about habeas corpus here.

  • United States Supreme Court/ Certiorari Petitions

    Whether you want to challenge a state appellate court or a federal appellate court decision, you can always seek review of your appeals process by trying to take your case to the United States Supreme Court. This is the highest court in our nation. There is an application process, initiated by filing a petition for certiorari. If certiorari (commonly referred to as “cert”) is granted, then further briefing is required, followed in many instances by an oral argument heard by the Justices of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. If you are considering taking a case all the way to the United States Supreme Court, make sure that the attorney you are considering hiring is able to show you briefs he or she has filed previously in the Supreme Court. While most any attorney can obtain licensure in the Supreme Court, consider that this is your last and final shot. Make sure your attorney is experienced. Make sure your attorney has prepared and filed a certiorari petition for someone else, previously, so that he or she is familiar with the rigorous process. Do not trust this last shot you’ll have to just anyone. Insist on experience.

    More information on this topic is available by request, so do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Jonathan Laurans.

2255 Federal Habeas Corpus Motions

In Chapter 28 of the United States Code, subsection 2255, one finds the law (“statute”) which is the modern version of the “writ of habeas corpus.” This federal law is available as an aid to people who have been convicted in federal courts and who are in custody, but who feel they have been wrongly convicted, or excessively punished. Subsection 2255 provides the procedural vehicle for these people to challenge their convictions or sentences, beyond the limited challenges available through the “direct appeal” process. In other words, if someone in federal custody has lost their direct appeal after a trial, or is not able to file a direct appeal because of their guilty plea, they still may be able to challenge their conviction or sentence via “habeas corpus.” This federal post-conviction procedure is commenced and invoked by the filing of a “2255 motion.” When a “2255 motion” is used effectively, it can be a powerful tool to right injustices that were not, or could not have been raised, on direct appeal. This is because subsection 2255 of Chapter 28 of the United States Code “cited as “28 U.S.C. 2255”) gives courts broad discretion in fashioning appropriate relief – including dismissal of all charges, retrial, or resentencing – if a constitutional violation of an inmate’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel can be proven, or a violation of an inmate’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel or unusual punishment can be shown.

Who Can File?

Only people in custody under sentence of a federal court may file motions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate their convictions or sentences. An applicant under this law is called a “movant,” and must either be in prison or jail, or else have his or her liberty under some other form of restraint as part of a federal sentence. A movant need only satisfy the “custody” requirement at the time they file a § 2255 motion. A movant being released from custody during the litigation of a “2255 motion” is usually permitted to proceed with their fight. In other words, a movant’s release during their “2255” litigation does not ordinarily make their case moot or divest a federal court of jurisdiction to hear the case.

However, defendants who have completed their sentences may not obtain relief through § 2255. Defendants who cannot meet the “custody requirement” may still be able to obtain relief under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, by petitioning for a writ in the nature of Coram Nobis, which has no custody requirement, or a Writ of Audita Querela. Further information about these procedures can be obtained through an in-office consultation.

Differences From Direct Appeals

One of the most significant differences between a direct appeal and a “2255 motion” is that direct appeals are decided based on the district court record as it exists as of the time the notice of appeal is filed. By contrast, “2255 motions” offer movants the opportunity to present the court with new evidence. While issues which may be raised in a “2255 motion” are not necessarily limited by the record as it exists at the time the motion is filed, not all issues may be raised in a “2255 motion.” If the issue could have been fully raised and briefed during the direct appeal process, it must.

Subsection 2255 motions may only be used to raise jurisdictional, constitutional, or other fundamental errors. For example, some federal appellate courts have ruled that sentencing calculation errors that escaped notice on direct appeal cannot be raised under subsection 2255, unless couched in terms of “ineffective assistance of counsel.” Others have not questioned the appropriateness of raising sentencing issues in a “2255 motion.” Legal research is needed to divine out what the result may be in your given federal court.

A “2255 motion” is, however, always the proper procedural vehicle to question whether an attorney’s failure to raise legal and factual issues deprived a defendant of his or her Sixth Amendment right to effective representation, either at trial, sentencing, or on direct appeal.

Encountering Obstacles in Litigating a “2255 Motion”

Identifying an appropriate “2255” issue is no guarantee of success. Even prisoners who have good issues must often overcome numerous obstacles before a court will even address them. For example, if an issue could have been raised on direct appeal, but was not, a district court will not consider the issue in a “2255” proceeding unless the defendant can demonstrate “cause” (such as ineffective assistance of counsel) for not raising the issue earlier and “prejudice” (that is, that the error likely made a difference in the outcome). For this reason, it is generally not a good idea to forego a direct appeal and proceed directly to a “2255 motion.”

Conversely, if an issue was raised and decided on appeal, a defendant is “procedurally barred” from raising the issue yet again in a “2255 motion,” absent extraordinary circumstances, such as an intervening change in the law or newly discovered evidence.

Movants’ Rights

Prisoners who cannot afford to hire private counsel have no right to appointed counsel to assist them in filing a “2255 motion.” Indigent litigants may, however, ask the court for appointment of counsel. A court has discretion to appoint counsel during any stage of the proceeding if it is in the interests of justice to do so. That said, the appointment of an attorney is required if the court is granting the movant an evidentiary hearing, or if the court permits “discovery” (investigation) and finds that an attorney is necessary for effective utilization of those procedures.

Motion Procedure

You may have heard the terms “writ of habeas corpus,” “post-conviction relief,” or “collateral attack.” These terms are interchangeable, and all refer to a “2255 motion.” The challenge or “attack” on a wrongful conviction or excessive sentence is presented to the court as a motion rather than a petition or application for a writ. There is no substantive difference, though.

A “2255 motion” is a way to obtain post-conviction relief, meaning it is used to seek release from a sentence imposed after a conviction. It is classified as a collateral attack on a sentence as opposed to a direct attack upon the conviction.

The rules governing “2255 motions” are complex. The appellate decisions which interpret the procedures and limitations that apply to “2255 motions” are often confusing and contradictory. If you are thinking about preparing and filing a “2255 motion,” you should consult with an appeal/ post-conviction attorney. In nearly all cases, you only get one chance to bring a “2255 motion.” If you make a mistake and lose the motion, the court will probably not allow you to file another one. Indeed, permission to do so can only be obtained from one of the thirteen federal appeals courts, called “circuit courts,” and they have rarely, if ever, granted such permission

Denial of a 2255 Motion

When Congress enacted the laws defining and limiting federal post-conviction relief (called “The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act,” or “AEDPA” for short), Congress created barriers to appealing the denial of a “2255 motion.” In short answer, you can appeal if you are given “permission to appeal” via a “certificate of appealability,” which must be sought by an application.

When the district court denies a “2255 motion,” it is given first chance for considering whether or not to grant a certificate of appealability. Then, the federal appeals court (“circuit court”) for that region is next up to consider whether or not to grant a certificate of appealability (often called a “COA”). Invoking consideration by the appellate court is as simple as filing a Notice of Appeal. However, if you do not also file an “application” explaining your reasons for seeking the COA, you shouldn’t expect to have a great shot at getting a COA.

To obtain a certificate of appealability, an applicant must make a “substantial showing” of the denial of a constitutional right. While the law as written encourages the granting of a certificate of appealability except in cases where a judge believes the “2255 motion” was frivolous, in practice the opposite is true. COAs are granted in less than 2% of all cases.

If a “2255 motion” raised more than one issue, the application for a certificate of appealability should address each issue separately. Often a litigant is allowed to appeal from the denial of a “2255 motion” on some – but not all – of the grounds raised.

Substantial Showing of the Denial of a Constitutional Right

An applicant for a COA need to prove that he or she will win the appeal in order to bring an appeal challenging the denial of a “2255 motion.”. A certificate of appealability should be granted if reasonable judges could differ about the merits of the constitutional claims raised in the “2255 motion.” This legal standard does not require a showing that some judges would have agreed with a particular claim. Instead, the claim merely needs to be strong enough to be “debatable.” If a claim has arguable merit, it should provoke the issuance of a certificate of appealability.

While the right to appeal the denial of a “2255 motion” is not automatically granted, a movant’s chance of pursuing an appeal will be greater if he or she is represented by an attorney who has experience handling “2255 motions” and appeals.

Photo of a court of appeals - Appeals attorney Jonathan Laurans

Timing is Critical to Your Appeals & Post-Conviction

If you or a loved one are considering filing an appeal or post-conviction challenge, the time to act is now. The importance of hiring an experienced defense attorney should not be underemphasized. Hiring the wrong defense attorney can result in harsher penalties than the law allows, as well as a lifetime of negative repercussions. Do not expect the prosecutor who is lobbying to incarcerate you to suddenly stop and inform you that your own attorney has missed facts or laws which would limit your sentencing exposure, or even lead to a dismissal of the charges against you. There are rules obligating prosecutors to do this, but they are not always followed.

Please Contact Our Office

If you are in a desperate legal situation, or facing a difficult legal challenge, you need an appellate lawyer to aggressively defend your rights. The Law Office of Jonathan Laurans is ready to fight for you. Contact us today for a FREE consultation. Please contact us by phone at (816) 421-5200, or send us an email.

Timing is everything when your freedom and legal standing are in question. Do not hesitate, contact us today!