Cause-And-Prejudice Rule Law and Legal Definition

Cause-and-prejudice rule is a legal principle under criminal law. The rule states that a prisoner attacking his/her conviction on the basis of a constitutional challenge that was not presented to the trial court, should show good cause for failing to preserve the objection at trial. A prisoner should also show that a trial court has actually prejudiced him/her. The following are some causes that will excuse a prisoner’s procedural lapse:

1.Any reasonable unavailability of legal defense;

2.Any reasonable unavailability of factual defense;

3.Any governmental interference.

For the prejudice element, a prisoner must show actual prejudice, such as constitutionally invalid sentence, that resulted from a trial court’s error. The cause-and-prejudice rule creates a higher burden than what a prisoner would face in a direct appeal because it is intended to provide protection from fundamental miscarriages of justice rather than from minor trial court errors. However, in death penalty cases if a prisoner proves actual innocence, a court may grant relief even when the standards of the cause-and-prejudice rule have not been met.[ Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446 (U.S. 2000)]