Collateral Attack on a Conviction or Sentence

Section 2255 is intended to provide habeas corpus relief in a wide variety of circumstances. While constitutional and federal law violations make up the majority of section 2255 claims, a federal prisoner whose conviction or sentence is "otherwise subject to collateral attack" may file a section 2255 motion in federal court. 28 U.S.C. §2255(a). As is the case with any other nonconstitutional or nonjurisdictional claim, the error that renders a conviction or sentence otherwise subject to collateral attack must also "constitute[] a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." See Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 354 (1994), and Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962).

Example Cases of 2255 Relief Based on Nonconstitutional and Nonjurisdictional Claims

Below are a sampling of cases where habeas petitioners argued that their convictions or sentences were otherwise subject to collateral attack in section 2255 proceedings.

 

  • Siddiqi v. United States, 98 F.3d 1427, 1438, (2d Cir. 1999). When the government's theory of guilt shifted multiple times (one theorycollateral attack on the evidence, another theory in closing arguments, and an entirely different theory on appeal), and the jury convicted on a theory that was put forth for the first time in closing arguments, there was no factual foundation for the conviction and it therefore "did not meet the rudimentary demands of fair procedure" and "constituted a miscarriage of justice." The conviction was subject to collateral attack in section 2255 proceedings.

 

  • United States v. Tucker, 414 U.S. 443 (1972). When the defendant's sentence was based in part on two prior felony convictions in which the defendant was not represented by counsel (in violation of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)), the sentence was subject to collateral attack in section 2255 proceedings.

 

  • Daniels v. United States, 532 U.S. 374 (2001). While a defendant cannot use §2255 to challenge an enhanced sentence on the ground that the prior convictions were unconstitutional (with the exception of prior convictions obtained in violation of Gideon, as was the case in United States v. Tucker, above), if the prior convictions are still open to challenge, and are successfully challenged, then section 2255 relief is available.

 

  • Bateman v. United States, 875 F.2d 1304, 1307 (7th Cir. 1989). When the defendant was convicted for conduct that does not violate federal law, the conviction was subject to collateral attack "under the Section 2255 rubric permitting motions to vacate sentences 'otherwise open to collateral attack.'"

 

  • United States v. Angelos, 763 F.2d 859, 861 (7th Cir. 1984). "The question what issues of nonconstitutional, nonjurisdictional character are open in a collateral attack on a criminal conviction, given that the issue of the defendant's guilt or innocence clearly is not, is a vexing one . . . about all that can be offered as a generalization is that if the defendant can show that under no possible view of his conduct was he guilty of a federal crime, the conviction will be set aside as 'otherwise subject to collateral attack' under 28 U.S.C. §2255."

Collateral Attack Catch-All Provision

When a federal prisoner desires to seek section 2255 relief for an error that is not based in the Constitution or federal law, he may resort to asserting that the conviction or sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. This catch-all provision allows for the pursuit of relief in many cases.

But each and every claim that a conviction or sentence is subject to collateral attack via section 2255 must also have amounted to a complete miscarriage of justice. No matter how clear the error is, if the movant doesn't allege, and the court doesn't find a miscarriage of justice, the claim is dead in the water.

Lawyers Experienced in 2255 Motions and Collateral Attacks on Convictions

The Law Office of Brandon Sample routinely files section 2255 motions. Our experienced litigators know how to present a collateral attack as a complete miscarriage of justice. If you or a loved one wish to challenge a federal firearm or drug conspiracy case with a section 2255 motion, contact us now for a consultation. It is highly advisable that anyone wishing to pursue a section 2255 claim consult with and retain an experienced and competent habeas corpus attorney.

Collateral Attack on a Conviction or Sentence

Q: I successfully challenged one of the prior convictions used to enhance my  federal sentence. Can I file a section 2255 motion now that one of the convictions necessary for my enhancement no longer exists?

A: Federal sentences are commonly enhanced due to the existence of prior (often state-level) convictions. When a federal prisoner succeeds in overturning a conviction used to enhance his federal sentence, section 2255 may be available to mount a collateral attack on the sentence. Note, however that the section 2255 challenge must allege that the sentencing enhancement now "constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 354 (1994). If you believe that your enhanced sentence is subject to collateral attack due to the vacature of a previous conviction, contact our office today for a consultation. The experienced section 2255 attorneys at the Law Offices of Brandon Sample know how to properly frame and litigate a section 2255 collateral attack.

Q: I believe that I have a claim that is cognizable under section 2255, but I don't know under which category my claim falls. What should I do?

A:  Call us. We will help you understand the kind of claim you have, and if necessary, will work with you to file your claim under the "catch-all" category -- that your conviction or sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. Federal prisoners get one chance at a section 2255 motion. Make sure your section 2255 motion is the best it can be by engaging our firm to provide you with professional and competent representation.

Related Content

Cognizable Claims: Overview

 

Cognizable Claims: The Court Lacked Jurisdiction

 

Cognizable Claims: The Conviction or Sentence Violates the Constitution

 

Cognizable Claims: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

 

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: Pretrial

 

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: Trial

 

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: Sentencing

 

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: Appeal

 

Cognizable Claims: The Conviction or Sentence Violates Federal Law

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