Articles Posted in Appeal

iStock_000002633881XSmall.jpgThe highest criminal court in Texas recently set aside the judgment of Rolando Garcia, who had been convicted a third degree felony offense of possession of marijuana. Mr. Garcia’s judgment carried with it a prison sentence of three years. However, the only reason Mr. Garcia had pleaded guilty and accepted the plea deal of a three- year sentence was because the prosecutor had charged Mr. Garcia with the offense of felony possession. Despite the charge of felony possession, laboratory testing of the substance involved in Mr. Garcia’s case revealed that the prosecutor could not prove Mr. Garcia actually possessed a felony quantity of marijuana.

As a result of the revelation by the laboratory testing, the parties in this case agreed that Mr. Garcia would not have pleaded guilty in exchange for a three-year sentence if he had known that the prosecutor could only have proven Mr. Garcia possessed merely a misdemeanor quantity of marijuana. Mr. Garcia’s defense argued to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Mr. Garcia’s guilty plea was involuntary because he is actually innocent of the felony offense to which he pleaded guilty.

In response to Mr. Garcia’s argument, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a writ based on actual innocence.

iStock_000007696540XSmall.jpgThis article is for those who know friends and family who have been convicted of possession of marijuana or if you yourself are dealing with a conviction. If you have a conviction and you want to challenge your case, you can fight your case through an appeal. The appellate process is exceptionally complicated and can be a rather long process. Moreover, there are many venues to appeal your case.

A writ of actual innocence is an argument based on newly discovered evidence relating to your case. 38 Tex. Jur. 3d Extraordinary Writs § 78. There are two types: first there is the Herrera claim, which is claim that you are innocent based solely on newly discovered evidence; second there is a Schlup claim, which argues that a conviction should be overturned due to constitutional problem. A Herrera claim is interesting because it usually involves junk science or faulty laboratory procedures. The case of Ex Parte Garcia is a perfect example of how this writ can overturn your conviction.

Garcia’s conviction was based on a guilty plea. Ex parte Garcia, AP-76,990, 2013 WL 1182735 (Tex. Crim. App. Mar. 20, 2013). The state charged Garcia with the offense of possessing no more than five and less than fifty pounds, which is a third degree felony. He pleaded guilty and decided not to appeal his conviction. However, after he plead guilty, laboratory testing determined that the state could only have proved that he possessed a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. After Garcia learned of this information, he argued that he would never have pleaded guilty to the charge and that his plea was involuntary. The Court granted Garcia relief and remanded the case, which means that the trial court would have to re-hear the case in light of the new evidence. In sum, if you have a conviction for possessing marijuana, have your attorney examine all the evidence to see if an actual writ of innocence would be appropriate for you and your case.