Virginia’s Conviction Integrity Unit
Dec. 8, 2021
Wrongfully convicted persons in Virginia face an uphill battle in getting their convictions overturned. Virginia’s laws are strict and claims of innocence face difficult hurdles. In recent years, the Virginia legislature has made changes to the law to make it a bit easier for the wrongfully convicted to prove their innocence. These significant changes in the law were followed by the Virginia Attorney General’s creation of the Conviction Integrity Unit (“CIU”). The CIU is a distinct entity in the Office of the Attorney General with the sole focus of evaluating and investigating claims of innocence in Virginia.
A key component to the CIU’s work is to determine if there is “new evidence” that the person claiming to be wrongfully convicted is not the person who committed the offense. “New evidence” for purposes of triggering a CIU investigation is evidence that was not previously considered at trial or presented on appeal of the conviction.
What Is the Criteria for The CIU to Review My Case?
To have your case accepted for review by the CIU, the following criteria must be met:
You must have a Virginia felony conviction.
Your innocence claim must be based on the fact that you did not commit or played any role in the crime.
Your claim must be supported by information or evidence that was not presented or considered at trial.
Your claim must be one that can be investigated and resolved, and if proven true, would bear directly on your innocence.
Your direct appeal must have already become final, or the time for seeking a direct appeal has run out.
Do I Need to Petition the CIU to Review My Case?
Yes. If the above criteria are met, there is an application that must be filled out and submitted for the CIU to determine whether it will review your case. The application can be filled out by the person claiming innocence (i.e., the applicant), or a person authorized by the applicant (family, friend, or an attorney acting on the applicant’ behalf). If an attorney makes the claim on behalf of the applicant, the CIU will only communicate through the attorney. The CIU will not consider any claims made to them by telephone or email.
What if I Pleaded Guilty?
History has shown us that even innocent people plead guilty sometimes. Therefore, the CIU will still investigate your case even though you pleaded guilty as long as you are claiming innocence to the crime and played no role in it.
How Can the CIU Impartially Investigate My Claim of Innocence?
It is true that the CIU is part of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, which represents the state against claims of wrongful conviction. The Attorney General’s Office has even fought against cases where the courts have found the prisoner to be innocent of the crime. This begs the question: Can the CIU be impartial in investigating your claim of innocence?
The CIU was created as an independent division in the Attorney General’s Office with the sole mission of investigating claims of innocence. The CIU has attorneys and investigators dedicated solely for this purpose. Attorney General Mark Herring said the following in creating the CIU: “Our goal as a Commonwealth must always be justice and truth, not simply convictions, or preservation and defense of convictions in defiance of logic, facts, or new evidence.”
Virginia Post Conviction Lawyer
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