The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) established a one-year time frame for state prisoners to file for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. This limitation is codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). Absent a special exception, an untimely petition will be dismissed without a determination on the merits. The one-year time clock runs from the latest of the following events:
- The date on which the judgment becomes final from either the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of time for seeking direct review.
- The date on which a state-created impediment to filing is alleviated, assuming that the impediment actually prevented the individual from filing earlier.
- The date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.
- The date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.
Importantly, a timely petition for post-conviction relief under state law does not re-start the one-year time clock. However, when a timely petition for state post-conviction relief is filed, the federal habeas time clock is subject to what is known as equitable tolling. This simply means that the federal habeas time clock is “paused” during the pendency of a state post-conviction relief proceeding.
For example, if the federal habeas corpus time clock begins to run on June 1, 2021, a petition for habeas corpus would be timely if filed on or before June 1, 2022. But if a petition for state post-conviction relief is filed on July 1, 2021, the clock will stop. At that time 30 days of the one-year time limit will have elapsed. When the time clock re-starts after the disposition of the state post-conviction proceeding, there will be 335 days left to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.