Code of Virginia

Creating a Report: Check the sections you'd like to appear in the report, then use the "Create Report" button at the bottom of the page to generate your report. Once the report is generated you'll then have the option to download it as a pdf, print or email the report.

Code of Virginia
Title 19.2. Criminal Procedure
Chapter 19.3. Issuance of Writ of Actual Innocence Based on Nonbiological Evidence
1/28/2021

Chapter 19.3. Issuance of Writ of Actual Innocence Based on Nonbiological Evidence.

§ 19.2-327.10. Issuance of writ of actual innocence based on nonbiological evidence.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law or rule of court, upon a petition of a person who was convicted of a felony, or the petition of a person who was adjudicated delinquent by a circuit court of an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult, the Court of Appeals shall have the authority to issue writs of actual innocence under this chapter. The writ shall lie to the circuit court that entered the conviction or the adjudication of delinquency and that court shall have the authority to conduct hearings, as provided for in this chapter, on such a petition as directed by order from the Court of Appeals. In accordance with §§ 17.1-411 and 19.2-317, either party may appeal a final decision of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Virginia. Upon an appeal from the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Virginia shall have the authority to issue writs in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

2004, c. 1024; 2013, c. 170; 2020, cc. 993, 994.

§ 19.2-327.10:1. Petition for writ of actual innocence joined by Attorney General; release of prisoner; bond hearing.

The Attorney General may join in a petition for a writ of actual innocence made pursuant to § 19.2-327.10. When such petition is so joined, the petitioner may file a copy of the petition and attachments thereto and the Attorney General's answer with the circuit court that entered the felony conviction or adjudication of delinquency and move the court for a hearing to consider release of the person on bail pursuant to Chapter 9 (§ 19.2-119 et seq.). Upon hearing and for good cause shown, the court may order the person released from custody subject to the terms and conditions of bail so established, pending a ruling by the Court of Appeals on the writ under § 19.2-327.13.

2015, c. 66; 2020, cc. 993, 994.

§ 19.2-327.11. Contents and form of the petition based on previously unknown or unavailable evidence of actual innocence.

A. The petitioner shall allege categorically and with specificity, under oath, all of the following: (i) the crime for which the petitioner was convicted or the offense for which the petitioner was adjudicated delinquent; (ii) that the petitioner is actually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted or the offense for which he was adjudicated delinquent; (iii) an exact description of (a) the previously unknown or unavailable evidence supporting the allegation of innocence or (b) the previously untested evidence and the scientific testing supporting the allegation of innocence; (iv)(a) that such evidence was previously unknown or unavailable to the petitioner or his trial attorney of record at the time the conviction or adjudication of delinquency became final in the circuit court or (b) if known, the reason that the evidence was not subject to scientific testing set forth in the petition; (v) the date (a) the previously unknown or unavailable evidence became known or available to the petitioner and the circumstances under which it was discovered or (b) the results of the scientific testing of previously untested evidence became known to the petitioner or any attorney of record; (vi)(a) that the previously unknown or unavailable evidence is such as could not, by the exercise of diligence, have been discovered or obtained before the expiration of 21 days following entry of the final order of conviction or adjudication of delinquency by the circuit court or (b) that the testing procedure was not available at the time the conviction or adjudication of delinquency became final in the circuit court; (vii) that the previously unknown, unavailable, or untested evidence is material and, when considered with all of the other evidence in the current record, will prove that no rational trier of fact would have found proof of guilt or delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt; and (viii) that the previously unknown, unavailable, or untested evidence is not merely cumulative, corroborative, or collateral. Nothing in this chapter shall constitute grounds to delay setting an execution date pursuant to § 53.1-232.1 or to grant a stay of execution that has been set pursuant to clause (iii) or (iv) of § 53.1-232.1 or to delay or stay any other appeals following conviction or adjudication of delinquency, or petitions to any court. Human biological evidence may not be used as the sole basis for seeking relief under this writ but may be used in conjunction with other evidence.

B. Such petition shall contain all relevant allegations of facts that are known to the petitioner at the time of filing; shall be accompanied by all relevant documents, affidavits, and test results; and shall enumerate and include all relevant previous records, applications, petitions, and appeals and their dispositions. The petition shall be filed on a form provided by the Supreme Court. If the petitioner fails to submit a completed form, the Court of Appeals may dismiss the petition or return the petition to the petitioner pending the completion of such form. Any false statement in the petition, if such statement is knowingly or willfully made, shall be a ground for prosecution of perjury as provided for in § 18.2-434.

C. In cases brought by counsel for the petitioner, the Court of Appeals shall not accept the petition unless it is accompanied by a duly executed return of service in the form of a verification that a copy of the petition and all attachments have been served on the attorney for the Commonwealth of the jurisdiction where the conviction or adjudication of delinquency occurred and the Attorney General, or an acceptance of service signed by these officials, or any combination thereof. In cases brought by petitioners pro se, the Court of Appeals shall not accept the petition unless it is accompanied by a certificate that a copy of the petition and all attachments have been sent, by certified mail, to the attorney for the Commonwealth of the jurisdiction where the conviction or adjudication of delinquency occurred and the Attorney General. If the Court of Appeals does not summarily dismiss the petition, it shall so notify in writing the Attorney General, the attorney for the Commonwealth, and the petitioner. The Attorney General shall have 60 days after receipt of such notice in which to file a response to the petition that may be extended for good cause shown; however, nothing shall prevent the Attorney General from filing an earlier response. The response may contain a proffer of any evidence pertaining to the guilt or delinquency or innocence of the petitioner that is not included in the record of the case, including evidence that was suppressed at trial.

D. The Court of Appeals may inspect the record of any trial or appellate court action, and the Court may, in any case, award a writ of certiorari to the clerk of the respective court below, and have brought before the Court the whole record or any part of any record. If, in the judgment of the Court, the petition fails to state a claim, or if the assertions of previously unknown, unavailable, or untested evidence, even if true, would fail to qualify for the granting of relief under this chapter, the Court may dismiss the petition summarily, without any hearing or a response from the Attorney General.

E. In any petition filed pursuant to this chapter that is not summarily dismissed, the petitioner is entitled to representation by counsel subject to the provisions of Article 3 (§ 19.2-157 et seq.) and Article 4 (§ 19.2-163.3 et seq.) of Chapter 10. The Court of Appeals may, in its discretion, appoint counsel prior to deciding whether a petition should be summarily dismissed.

2004, c. 1024; 2013, cc. 170, 180; 2020, cc. 993, 994.

§ 19.2-327.12. Determination by Court of Appeals for findings of fact by the circuit court.

If the Court of Appeals determines from the petition, from any hearing on the petition, from a review of the records of the case, or from any response from the Attorney General that a resolution of the case requires further development of the facts, the court may order the circuit court in which the order of conviction or the adjudication of delinquency was originally entered to conduct a hearing within 90 days after the order has been issued to certify findings of fact with respect to such issues as the Court of Appeals shall direct. The record and certified findings of fact of the circuit court shall be filed in the Court of Appeals within 30 days after the hearing is concluded. The petitioner or his attorney of record, the attorney for the Commonwealth and the Attorney General shall be served a copy of the order stating the specific purpose and evidence for which the hearing has been ordered.

2004, c. 1024; 2013, c. 170.

§ 19.2-327.13. Relief under writ.

Upon consideration of the petition, the response by the Commonwealth, previous records of the case, the record of any hearing held under this chapter, and, if applicable, any findings certified from the circuit court pursuant to an order issued under this chapter, the Court of Appeals, if it has not already summarily dismissed the petition, shall either dismiss the petition for failure to state a claim or assert grounds upon which relief shall be granted, or the Court shall (i) dismiss the petition for failure to establish previously unknown, unavailable, or untested evidence sufficient to justify the issuance of the writ, or (ii) only upon a finding that the petitioner has proven by a preponderance of the evidence all of the allegations contained in clauses (iv) through (viii) of subsection A of § 19.2-327.11, and upon a finding that no rational trier of fact would have found proof of guilt or delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt, grant the writ, and vacate the conviction or finding of delinquency, or in the event that the Court finds that no rational trier of fact would have found sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt as to one or more elements of the offense for which the petitioner was convicted or adjudicated delinquent, but the Court finds that there remains in the original trial record evidence sufficient to find the petitioner guilty or delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt of a lesser included offense, the Court shall modify the order of conviction or delinquency accordingly and remand the case to the circuit court that entered the conviction or adjudication of delinquency for resentencing. The burden of proof in a proceeding brought pursuant to this chapter shall be upon the convicted or delinquent person seeking relief. If a writ vacating a conviction or adjudication of delinquency is granted, and no appeal is made to the Supreme Court, or the Supreme Court denies the Commonwealth's petition for appeal or upholds the decision of the Court of Appeals to grant the writ, the Court of Appeals shall forward a copy of the writ to the circuit court, where an order of expungement shall be immediately granted.

2004, c. 1024; 2007, cc. 465, 824, 883, 905; 2013, cc. 170, 180; 2020, cc. 993, 994.

§ 19.2-327.14. Claims of relief.

An action under this chapter or the actions of any attorney representing the petitioner under this chapter shall not form the basis for relief in any habeas corpus proceeding. Nothing in this chapter shall create any cause of action for damages against the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions.

2004, c. 1024.