What Is The Rule 32 Petition Under Arizona Law?
A Rule 32 petition is similar to an appeal. The only difference is that it applies when you entered into a plea agreement with the state to resolve your case, rather than being convicted at a trial of some kind.
What Changes Were Made To The Rule 32 Petition In The 90s?
In the 1990s, changes were made that affected Rule 32, and Arizona’s self-defense law or justification law. Up until the late 90s, the self-defense burden, or the burden of proving that someone did not act in self-defense, was still on a prosecutor. For example, the prosecutor or the state’s case always required that they’ve proved the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant were able to successfully raise self-defense as a defense to the charges at trial, then the prosecutor would also have to prove that the defendants did not act in self-defense, and did not act in a justifiable manner. That was the law originally, and it is how a law is again now, but for the time between the late 1990s and mid-2000s, the burden shifted over to the defendant’s side.
When the defendants went to trial and raised the self-defense claim, if the judge allowed that claim to be heard by the jury, the defendant had to argue that he had proved that he had used justifiable force. For example, in an assault case, he had to show that he had used self-defense appropriately. It was on the defendant to affirmatively prove the defense, rather than the state to disprove the defense. It cut against one of the corners for the criminal defense issues of the state, which is that the state has all the burden of proof in a case, and the defendant does not have to testify, does not have to prove himself innocent. The state has to prove the defendant guilty, and prove that there was no justification beyond the reasonable doubt.
For that period of time, almost 10 years, when it became the defendant’s burden, it then raised a lot of Rule 32 issues in the future as to whether the defendant had to prove his justification defense for a valid conviction.
What Are The Grounds To File A Petition Pursuant To Rule 32?
There are several criteria for filing a Rule 32 petition. The most important is that a notice of petition needs to be filed within 90 days of sentencing in a case, and it has to be initiated by an attorney or by the defendant himself. When the defendant files the petition, the court will typically appoint counsel, hire their own to review the transcripts in the case, transcripts of the plea proceedings, transcripts of any settlement discussions and conferences that were held, and the sentencing itself. All of that would be reviewed, as well as the discovery, the police report, the evidence, and video or audio recordings. The new attorney who is reviewing these items would determine if what we call a manifest in justice occurred to the defendant in his case. The first way they could do that would be ineffective assistance of counsel.
A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel can’t just be that your defense attorney didn’t do everything you wanted, or didn’t do everything the way you wanted. The claim has to show that if not for the defense attorney’s lack of doing something, you would have been potentially found innocent, or received a substantially different sentence in the case. The second way is newly discovered evidence. Let’s say the state finds new evidence and discloses it after a plea has already been entered in sentence, or even the defense team or somebody else comes forward, and we now have evidence that contradicts what we knew about the case when the plea was entered. New evidence could result in a Rule 32 petition.
Again, all of this is designed typically to give the defendant another shot at potentially a trial, or to negotiate their case differently with new evidence or a better defense plan. It doesn’t usually result in the conviction being thrown out entirely, it’s just giving the defendant chance to start over in a better situation, in a more advantageous situation. Finally, much like that discussion we had about the justification law, if there is a subsequent change in the law like there was there, that can result in Rule 32 petitions being triggered for people that were convicted under an improper reading of the law, or an improper use of the law. When it comes to that, many times deadlines have passed, and so there are some motions and considerations that come into play as to whether the defendant can seek relief in cases like that or not.
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