Florida Conviction Vacated
According to the Sun Sentinel, a woman’s criminal conviction was recently vacated nearly three years after she completed her sentence. Ellisa Martinez was convicted in July 2011 for disrupting the operations of a school district. Martinez had sent messages to a local radio program, in which she mentioned plans to exercise the 2nd Amendment at a local government building or school. She later called the radio station and said her husband was planning a school shooting. At the time of her conviction, her lawyer claimed that she was suffering from a prior brain injury and never intended to carry out the threats. She was sentenced to two years in prison, and was released in August 2012.
When someone who had been convicted of a crime has his or her sentence vacated, it is as though the trial never happened and the person was never convicted. Convictions can be vacated for a number of reasons. Convictions may be vacated if the person convicted meets certain criteria to have the conviction eliminated from his or her record. They may also be vacated if there was an error in the original trial that affected the outcome of the case.
Vacating Convictions after Serving Sentence
It may seem odd that Martinez sought to have her crime vacated after being released from prison. After all, she had already served the time and was no longer being held in prison, so what would she stand to gain from vacating the conviction?
There are a number of reasons why vacating a conviction could be important to someone who has already served the sentence for the crime. In Martinez’s case, this conviction was her only conviction. Having the crime vacated means that she will have a clean criminal record. This can be important for a number of reasons – having a criminal conviction, especially for a serious crime, can impact ability to vote, ability to obtain government benefits, and employment prospects. Aside from reversing those negative effects of a criminal conviction, there is also an emotional gain that comes with being vindicated by the court system – Martinez and her lawyer did not believe she should have been convicted originally, and now the criminal justice system has supported their beliefs. Finally, removing the criminal conviction from her record can help Martinez attempt to rebuild her reputation in the community.
How does a conviction get overturned?
Convictions may be overturned via post-conviction relief. After a defendant is convicted of a crime, he or she can appeal the conviction and file a motion to vacate, set-aside, or change the sentence for a variety of reasons – such as the inclusion of inadmissible evidence, exclusion of evidence that should have been allowed at trial, misconduct by the police or prosecution, or violations of the defendant’s state or federal Constitutional rights. The process to obtain post-conviction relief can take a long time, which may explain why Martinez had already completed her sentence by the time her conviction was overturned.
A criminal conviction can be incredibly stressful and frightening. However, the ability to seek relief after a conviction can help ensure that the justice system operates properly, and means that a conviction is not necessarily the final word on the matter.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or have questions about your criminal law case, contact the experienced Florida lawyers at The Baez Law Firm for a consultation today.