Path One: The Direct Appeal
Generally speaking, at the state level there are three paths to obtaining post-conviction relief. The first path is to directly appeal your sentence to your state’s court of appeals. If you went to trial on your criminal charges and lost, you will be limited on your appeal to only making arguments on issues that your attorney preserved at trial. If you pleaded guilty to your charges, it is even more difficult to succeed on direct appeal; however, some defendants do succeed on appeal even after a plea is entered on a theory of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Path Two: The General Post-Conviction Motion
In the event that you lose on direct appeal, the second path to obtaining post-conviction relief is by filing a general post-conviction motion. The most important thing to know about this path is that in Tennessee, you only have one (1) year to file. In North Carolina, there is no deadline.
Path Three: The Federal Habeas Petition
If you again lose on your post-conviction motion, there is still the last-ditch effort of filing a habeas petition in federal court. Importantly, in every state there is a one (1) year deadline from the date of your final conviction to file a habeas petition.
If you plan on appealing your sentence or seeking another form of post-conviction relief, it is imperative that you contact an attorney that focuses on that field as soon as possible.