The information contained below is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice whatsoever. This information is subject to change at any time as the laws are ever evolving. Please check local rules of court, your state’s laws and current federal law for up-to-date information.
Where is the National Post-Conviction Project located?
Our main office is located in Las Vegas, Nevada. We have offices nationwide. We provide assistance to prisoners located in all 50-states and in the federal correctional system.
Is the National Post-Conviction Project registered and licensed?
Yes. NPCP is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a non-profit organization. NPCP is also registered as a non-profit organization in many states where such registration is required including, but not limited to, Nevada, California and North Carolina.
Does the the National Post-Conviction Project have attorneys on staff?
Yes. NPCP has licensed attorneys on staff at all times who supervise all work performed on a clients case. Visit our ABOUT US page for a list of some of our attorneys who are here to help you.
If I hire the National Post-Conviction Project to help me, do I get an attorney to represent me?
No. There is no attorney-client relationship. NPCP attorneys supervise and approve all work performed on a clients case. NPCP attorneys do not represent clients in court or file any pleadings unless done as “next friend”, should an emergency occur such as prison lock-downs, medical incapacity, transfer between institutions, etc. Your agreement is with NPCP, a non-profit organization, who will review any potential claims for post-conviction relief and provide you with a comprehensive Case Evaluation. The review is conducted by NPCP attorneys and post-conviction staff. If hired to do so, NPCP will also assist in the preparation of any necessary post-conviction pleadings which will be provided to the client for his/her submission in pro se to the appropriate court(s). Responsive pro se pleadings may also be included as well. In some cases the attorney performs all work on the NPCP clients case and, in other cases, the work is performed by NPCP paralegals and post-conviction professionals and is supervised by counsel.
What is “next friend”?
“Next friend” allows NPCP attorneys to file pleadings on an NPCP clients behalf when they are unable to do themselves. Normally, NPCP attorneys will supervise all work performed on the NPCP clients behalf including all post-conviction pleadings prepared on the clients behalf. Once these pleadings are approved by counsel, they are submitted to the client who submits them to the court in pro se. The same goes for any responsive pleadings. However, what happens in the event that a client is subject to a prison lock-down, transferred to another prison and separated from their legal property, suddenly becomes ill and unable to correspond with the court, restricted from the prison law library or any other “legal disability” occurs which effectively prevens them from accessing the courts? The solution is “next friend” as announced in the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149,163-164 (1990), where a habeas corpus petition or other post-conviction pleading may be filed on behalf of an inmate by an attorney who does not directly represent the petitioner. However, it must be established that (1) the prisoner cannot bring the petition himself/herself due to a “legal disability” (i.e., inadequate law library access, no access to photocopies, placement in segregation, illiterate, physical or emotional disability, etc.). and (2) the preparer is truly dedicated to the best interests of the prisoner.
Do non-attorneys work on my case?
Yes. Non-attorneys such as paralegals, post-conviction specialists and administrative staff may work on your case such as gathering documents, drafting pleadings and performing research on your case. These non-attorneys may also communicate information regarding your case to you or your sponsors in written updates or by phone or email. However, all work performed on your case and all communications made to you by non-attorneys is done under the supervision of licensed attorneys and is approved prior to any such work being performed or communications made by an attorney. All such supervision may be direct, remote or a combination thereof and all pleadings and communications approved are logged and recorded internally. NPCP complies with all rules and regulations of the State Bars for each State and also all federal rules and regulations concerning communications and work performed by non-attorneys under the supervision of attorneys.
Will NPCP attorneys or non-attorneys give me legal advice?
NPCP attorneys do not provide legal advice. Any legal related questions you may have concerning your case will be directed to an attorney and the attorney will respond to any potential legal related questions either directly or through a staff member at the attorneys direction.
How does the Case Evaluation process work?
Once hired, NPCP initially contacts the client’s former trial/plea counsel and appellate counsel (if there was an appeal), and request all client files. If needed, we also reach out to the appropriate state/federal courts, law enforcement agencies, prosecutor/solicitor/U.S. Attorney, probation/parole offices and request their files as well. This process can take as little as a few weeks or longer, depending on if the files exist and how cooperative the attorneys/agencies are in releasing them. We review all files for potentially meritorious claims for relief and ultimately provide a comprehensive Case Evaluation which details all work performed, lists all documents reviewed and the potential post-conviction claims or lack thereof. If potential claims are found, we will prepare the initial state or federal pleadings necessary to present to the relevant court(s) for the client’s submission in pro se (if the agreement includes this additional assistance). The appointment of counsel is always requested and should the court find that further proceedings may be necessary, they may appoint the client an attorney or you may retain your own counsel. NPCP is familiar with all post-conviction state habeas corpus petitions for writs of habeas corpus, PRP (“Personal Restraint Petition”), federal petitions for writ of habeas corpus, federal 2255 motions, sentence modifications, motions to correct illegal sentence, writs of coram nobis/vobis, PCR, Rule 59/60, sentence recall petitions, Certificate of Appealability (“COA”), Certiorari and more. We offer assistance in all 50 states, D.C., and all federal courts including the U.S. Supreme Court.
How long does the Evaluation Process take?
The Evaluation process can take a few weeks, a few months, or even longer. This depends on the seriousness of the case, the number of files necessary to adequately review the case, how soon we are able to obtain all necessary files, any co-defendant files necessary for consideration, additional cases, pending cases that may be relevant to the client’s case and many other factors, some of which may be unknown at the outset. NPCP asks for your patience during this process as our main goal is to ensure that your case receives the utmost care and attention.
How often will I receive updates from the National Post-Conviction Project as to the progress on my case?
NPCP sends out Progress Reports bi-annually (twice a year), or every quarter (three months) to the client, depending on whether or not there are significant developments in the case. In addition, clients and sponsors may write, call or e-mail NPCP and a timely response will be made.
What if I need further help beyond the initial pleadings?
NPCP may be able to assist you with additional pro se pleading such as reply briefs, traverse, amended petitions, petitions for review, certificate of appealability, Rule 59/60 motions, certiorari, etc., if hired beyond the initial agreement and if further proceedings are deemed reasonable by NPCP attorneys and staff. This is handled on a case by case basis and in some cases, is already included with the initial agreement.
How can I provide detailed information about my case?
As part of the intake process, NPCP will provide all potential clients with a Case Information Form (CIF), which you should fill out and return to us by mail. NPCP’s Senior Staff Attorney will perform an initial intake review and if there appears to be, on the face, potentially meritorious and non-frivolous claims for relief, we will reach out to the prisoner, the sponsor or both, and discuss the fee, any payment plan, obtaining any files, and the next steps. Once hired, we will pursue all files from former counsel, prosecution agencies, law enforcement, the courts, probation/parole agencies, media, public records and any other agencies or individuals that come to our attention.
I was convicted in a state court, can I have the federal courts review my case and is it too late to file my federal habeas corpus petition?
Prisoners who have exhausted their options in state court can often get a second chance at challenging any potential errors through a petition for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Federal habeas petitions can only challenge a state court’s conviction for constitutional violations. However, even violations of state rules of criminal procedure can take on a constitutional dimension through the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee to effective assistance of counsel, if your attorney failed to raise those issues or argue them properly.
One of the biggest obstacles for habeas petitions under § 2254 is the 365 day time limit that federal law imposes. Many prisoners, or their attorneys, find themselves frantically poring over court records and counting days when they realize that a prisoner might be entitled federal habeas relief. The good news is that the statute’s 365 day time limit may actually last longer than 365 days after your conviction. While every habeas case may present unique circumstances, the process of calculating the time limit for most federal habeas claims can be broken down by the following step-by-step process:
- Step 1-Gather All of the Dockets for Each Court that Has Heard the Case
The time limit for habeas relief can’t be calculated using only the date of conviction. Federal law takes into account the time that a prisoner spends both appealing his or her criminal conviction as well as challenging that conviction through collateral challenges to the conviction. To properly take into account all of the factors that may affect the habeas deadline, familiarity with the history of the case is essential both at the trial court and every level of appeal.
- Step 2-Determine the Last Date that a State Court Affirmed the Conviction
28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) specifies four “starting dates” for determining when the clock for the one-year deadline starts. The first, and most common of which, is the date on which the judgment became final “by the conclusion of the direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” The first step to determining the date that the conviction became final is to find out how far the case was litigated through the appellate process. Generally speaking, gaps in time between appeals are not considered when calculating the starting date for a habeas petition. If the case was only tried at the trial level, use the date that the judgment was entered. If a District Court of Appeal heard the case, use the date that the District Court entered its order. If an appeal to the State Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court considered the case, use the date of the Supreme Court’s order affirming the conviction or declining jurisdiction. Keep in mind that the last court of resort varies from state to state, some states the appeal is final at the state court of appeal and in others the appeal can be reviewed at the state supreme court.
- Step 3- Add Time Limits for Seeking an Appeal or Certiorari
Even if you did not seek an appeal at every level available, the starting date for the time limit to bring a habeas petition starts on the date that you could have appealed or petitioned for further review. Generally, if you stopped at the trial court, you have 30 days to file a notice of appeal to a District Court of Appeal (using Florida as an example, under Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.120(a)) If you stopped at a district court of appeal and could seek review in the State Supreme Court, you would have 30 days to petition the State Supreme Court for discretionary review of a district court’s decision (again, using Florida as an example, under Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.120(b)). If your case ended at the last state court available to you, you would have 90 days to file a petition of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court under Rule 13 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States. Be sure to add the appropriate number of days to the last applicable court order in the case to determine when the prisoner’s 365 days begin to run. Be sure to check the rules of court for the state which you were convicted in in order to determine when your convicted became final and when the dates are required under statute, if applicable, requiring discretionary review.
- Step 4- Determine If There Are Any Other Grounds to Bring a Habeas Petition
The final step to determine the starting date for the habeas time limit is to make sure that none of the other dates listed in 28 U.S.C. § 2244 would start the clock at a later time than the date on which the conviction was issued. §2244(d)(1) states that the habeas time limit can also start on the date that: (1) state action in violation of the constitution caused an impediment that prevented the prisoner from filing a habeas petition, (2) the United States Supreme Court recognized a new constitutional right that is retroactively applicable to the prisoner, or (3) the date of the factual grounds for the claim were discovered or could have been discovered through due diligence. If any of these dates occurred after the prisoner’s conviction became final, use that as the starting date instead.
- Step 5 -Subtract the Days Spent Pursuing Collateral Relief
After calculating the starting date for the habeas time limit, the next step is to count the number of days that transpired after the starting date where state courts were reviewed a properly filed application for state post-conviction relief or collateral review. 28 U.S.C. §2244(d)(2) states that the statute of limitations is tolled- in other words, the clock temporarily stops- while a such an application is pending. Using Florida as an example, the tolling provision generally includes the time that a prisoner spent litigating a motion Rule 3.850 or 3.800. However, it is very important to keep in mind that unlike calculating the starting date, tolling the statute of limitations takes into account the time between the date the conviction became final and the date the that a collateral challenge is filed. For example, if a prisoner filed a 3.850 motion 364 days after his conviction became final, he only has one day to file a federal habeas petition after the final denial of the motion. It is crucial to become familiar with the statutes as they apply in your jurisdiction.
- Step 6- Determine Whether the Total Time Exceeds 365 Days
After calculating the total number of days that have elapsed since the start date, and subtracting the number of days the statute of limitations was tolled due to applications for collateral relief, the total number of days remaining will determine whether the application meets §2244’s timing requirement. Also, keep in mind that, pursuant to what is known as the “mailbox rule”, a prisoner’s habeas petition is considered “filed” on the date it is mailed, rather than on the date the court receives it.
- Step 7- Determine if the Time Limit is Subject to Equitable Tolling
If the time to file the habeas petition has run for more than 365 days, a federal court may still decide to hear the petition through the doctrine of equitable tolling. In a case called Holland v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court found that the time limits in §2244 can be tolled even further using the court’s equitable powers. To qualify for equitable tolling, the petitioner must show: (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way that prevented timely filing. Often, equitable tolling requires a defendant who wanted to pursue a timely habeas petition, but was stopped by forces outside of his control. Often, the culprit is an attorney who refuses to file a habeas petition on behalf of his client. Be aware, however, that some federal circuit courts, including the Eleventh Circuit, have held that ordinary negligence by an attorney is not enough to equitably toll the habeas deadline (e.g., see Cadet v. Florida Department of Corrections). Rather, the attorney must abandon his representation of the client for his conduct to be considered an “extraordinary circumstance.”
Habeas deadlines are not always easy to determine, and can themselves be the subject of litigation if a case presents a novel issue. It’s always important to be familiar with the case law the controls the procedural posture in the prisoner’s individual case before determining whether the deadline has passed. However, if you believe that the deadline to bring a petition may be over, make sure that you consider all of the steps listed above. Missing one could be the difference between freedom and incarceration for a prisoner whose constitutional rights have been violated.
How much does the National Post-Conviction Project charge to perform an Evaluation and the initial pro se pleadings (if applicable)?
We charge a non-refundable fee starting at $5,000 and up, to review all of your transcripts, pleadings, documents, trial files, court records, appellate records (if applicable), public records, prosecutorial files and other files that we are able to obtain. This may include the preparation of the initial state -or- federal pleading for the client to submit in pro se. If further pleadings are required, a separate agreement is required. Our fees depend on the complexity of the case, volume of documents and in some cases more than one supervising attorney may be necessary to mange the case. NPCP also provides payment plans to qualifying persons.
Why do you charge money for services if you are a “non-profit”?
The rules for non-profits are found in Title 26 of the United States Code, section 501(c)(3). Non-Profit organizations are allowed to charge for their services as long as they are organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes, for testing for public safety, and other reasons as set forth by the IRS. NPCP charges rates for services that are traditionally lower than standard law firms and we also offer affordable payment plans and provide pro bono assistance when we can for qualifying cases. You can check the IRS Charity Website locator for the current status of the National Post-Conviction Project and also the Secretary of State for the State of Nevada.
What forms of payment does NPCP accept?
NPCP accepts all forms of payment. We accept checks, money orders, cashiers checks, wire/ACH transfers, credit and debit cards. All credit/debit card transactions are subject to a 2.9% fee plus $.025 per transaction if done by electronic invoice or 3.4% plus $0.25 if done by phone, email. etc. As NPCP is a non-profit organization we may, in some cases, accept tangible items in exchange for services such as vehicles, tools, jewlery, etc. Such transactions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
What is the policy if a personal check to NPCP doesn’t go through?
NPCP’s policy on returned checks is the first returned check is subject to a $50.00 return fee and in the event that a second payment bounces, the fee is $75.00 and all future payments must be made by cashiers check, money order, Venmo or Wire. In addition, any late payments that are over 30-days without being resolved, are subject to an additional $25.00 late fee, compounded monthly.
What if the National Post-Conviction Project does not find any potentially meritorious claims for post-conviction relief?
Unfortunately, in some cases, upon completion of the Evaluation, we will not find any claims that we feel have a reasonable chance of post-conviction relief. We will detail our findings in the Evaluation. If this is the case, no further action will be taken by NPCP.
Does the National Post-Conviction Project make any guarantees or assurances as to a result? Unfortunately NPCP cannot and will not make any promises, guarantees or assurances as to a result. While we may have had successful outcomes in cases similar to yours, this does not mean the same results will occur in your case.
What is a payment plan?
For qualifying cases, we will request typically 25-50% of the fee at the time of retaining our services and reasonable monthly payments thereafter. Custom plans are also available on a case-by-case basis.
Are the “fees” tax deductible?
No. The fees paid for the Evaluations and post-conviction assistance are not tax deductible. However, any donations made to the National Post-Conviction Project are tax-deductible up to the extent allowed by the IRS.
What is the National Post-Conviction Project refund policy?
At the signing of the initial Contract, all deposits are non-refundable. All requests for NPCP to stop work at any stage must be received in writing by NPCP by way of e-mail or certified US Mail. Once an Evaluation is completed, no refunds will be provided. If the agreement includes any post-conviction pro pleadings that have been completed on behalf ogd the client, no refunds for the completed work will be provided. Any work tjhat has not been completed at the time a client has made a request that NPCP cease work, may be entitled to a refund of any fees not earned. NPCP senior counsel will review the case and after a determination is made at to what work was not completed, any monies due the client will be promptly returned along with a detailed description of work performed and the fees charges in relation to the work performed.
At the conclusion of my Review, or any other services for which I have contracted the National Post-Conviction Project to perform, will I receive my files back and how much will I be charged?
The complete client file in possession of NPCP will be promptly returned to the client or their designee without charge. NPCP will hold on to any CD-ROMs, flash-drives or other electronic media until a non-incarcerated person can be designated to receive these items as prisons do not generally allow inmates to receive such items. Any items received on behalf of a client from a former attorney, law enforcement, etc. that contains images of children, depictions of death or other sensitive images or writings will be withheld from the client absent a court order. Alternatively, these items will be provided to a licensed attorney on the clients behalf with a letter from the attorney stating that they are the attorney for the client and they agree with all relevant state and federal laws regarding the dissemination of such items and they accept responsibility for said items upon receipt of them from NPCP.
I am a veteran of the United States military, do you offer any special rates for me?
Yes! We offer special rates and services for all of our incarcerated military veterans and specialized reviews designed for the unique post-conviction requirements of our veterans. Contact us for more details.
Do you offer any other discounts or special services?
We offer special rates for subscribers of Prison Legal News (“PLN”) and Criminal Legal News (“CLN”). Inquire for more details.
I don’t have any money or anyone to help me, do you offer any pro bono assistance or other services without a fee?
We have provided comprehensive SELF-HELP information and available forms/templates for post-conviction practice and procedure most of the 50 states, D.C. Circuit and federal prisoners. While we currently are seeking grant funding, we operate on fee based programs and have limited pro bono services which we consider on a case-by-case basis. If interested in pro bono assistance please let us know and we will submit your request to our pro bono attorney team.
Does NPCP accept donations and, if so, are they tax deductible?
Yes. NPCP accepts tax-deductible donations in the form of money or tangible items such as vehicles, tools, jewelry, etc. All donations are tax-deductible up to what the IRS allows and NPCP will provide you a receipt. Tangible items donated will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Contact NPCP and ask to speak with the Director of Donations.