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Nevada Supreme Court Holds Habeas Petition Not Mooted by End of Sentence

In a case of first impression, the Supreme Court of Nevada held that a state habeas corpus action filed while a person was incarcerated was not mooted by his subsequent release from all forms of custody.

In 2011, while a state prisoner, Lazaro Martinez-Hernandez filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and deprivation of appeal. In 2013, the district court granted the petition in part, finding he was wrongfully deprived of an appeal and entitled to an out-of-time appeal. The ineffective assistance of counsel claims were not addressed.

In 2014, Martinez-Hernandez’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal; the following year he filed a supplement to his 2011 petition. The appellate court dismissed the petition as moot because he was no longer in custody or on probation or parole.

Drawing heavily on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Carafas v. LaVallee, 391 U.S. 234 (1968), the Nevada Supreme Court held “that in instances where collateral consequences of a conviction exist, a habeas petition challenging the validity of a judgment of conviction does not become moot when the petitioner, who was in custody at the time the petition was filed, is released from custody subsequent to the filing of the petition.” It noted, however, that this was not true for a challenge to the sentence, which could be rendered moot once the sentence has been completed.

The Supreme Court explained that convictions have collateral consequences such as prohibitions against engaging in certain businesses, voting in state elections and serving as a juror. Thus, it held that “a criminal conviction creates a presumption that continuing collateral consequences exist,” and reversed the dismissal of Martinez-Hernandez’s petition and remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings. See: Martinez-Hernandez v. State, 380 P.3d 861, 132 Nev.Adv.Rep. 61 (Nev. 2016). 

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