In South Carolina, a post-conviction relief (PCR) proceeding is a collateral attack on a criminal conviction. This means the action is not necessarily to challenge not the sufficiency of the conviction itself, but the general process surrounding the conviction such as counsel’s representation, the actions of the prosecutors, or other aspects of the criminal proceeding. However, a post-conviction relief action is not a substitute for a direct appeal and cannot be filed while a direct appeal is still pending pursuant to Rule 71.1, SCRCP. The remedy or relief from a grant of post-conviction relief is typically a new trial, although resentencing or dismissal of charges is possible in rare scenarios. The post-conviction relief process is governed largely by the Uniform Post-Conviction Procedures Act, S.C. Code Ann. § 17-27-10 et seq.
The convicted person filing the application is referred to as an “applicant.” The application for relief can be found on the South Carolina Judicial Department website. Once the application is completed, must be filed with the Clerk of Court in the county of conviction within one year of sentencing or the conclusion of a direct appeal. The filed application will then be sent to the Attorney General’s Office. The Attorney General’s Office represents the State and will respond to the claims raised in the application.
If the allegations listed in the application require an evidentiary hearing, an attorney will be appointed to represent the applicant. If an attorney has been appointed, any questions about the process from the applicant or anyone on his behalf must be directed to that attorney.
A judge will issue a final order in all cases, regardless of whether or not a hearing is held on the application. Once a final order is issued, the non-prevailing party may file an appeal of the final order.