Duquesne Law Review


A person accused of a crime has a right to the effective assistance of trial counsel. When that right is violated, defendants seek relief by arguing that their attorney was ineffective. This article addresses a situation in which a class of defendants is deprived of any opportunity to ever argue that trial counsel was ineffective. In Pennsylvania, ineffectiveness claims generally must be deferred to the post-conviction stage of a case instead of being litigated during the direct appeal. To be eligible for post-conviction relief, however, a defendant must be serving a sentence when the court issues a ruling. For those defendants with too short of a sentence to litigate a post-conviction petition, there is no way to argue that trial counsel was ineffective. This means that a defendant may have been convicted solely because of trial counsel's ineffectiveness, but yet has no way to remedy this constitutional error.

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