A conviction in a criminal case shouldn’t be taken lightly and can mean serious consequences for you and your loved ones. If you feel that you’ve been wrongfully convicted, you don’t have to give up hope. In some circumstances, you may be able to take your case to a higher court by filing an appeal. Read more to find out if your case qualifies for an appeal and how an attorney can help you navigate this process.
What is an appeal?
An appeal is a claim you make to a higher court due to errors in your original trial. During this process, a panel of judges will review your trial to determine if any errors were made that would qualify you for a second trial or a new verdict.
Why would I file an appeal?
Appeals are granted due to errors in the original trial, and give you a chance for a lesser sentence or an overturned conviction in the second trial. That means that your verdict could be reversed upon review, or you may get a second trial in which you may get a lesser sentence or an overturned conviction.
What could qualify my case for an appeal?
There are several errors that could occur in and before a trial that may qualify you for an appeal.
1. False arrest
This one speaks for itself. If the officers that arrested you didn’t have the proper authority, your case could be overturned in an appeal. Proper authority includes things like probable cause or an arrest warrant. Without these or in the event of a violation of California search and seizure laws, your arrest could qualify you for an appeal.
2. Ineffective counsel
When you hire an attorney or are appointed a public defender by the state, you’ve trusted them with your future. Occasionally, even lawyers make mistakes that may violate your Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial, which would qualify you for a new trial. In this instance, you must prove that your counsel’s conduct was ineffective because their representation was less than an objective, professional standard of reasonableness or their representation resulted in actual prejudice.
3. Insufficient evidence
The Sixth Amendment also entitles you to a trial by a fair, impartial jury. Sometimes, though, jurors have a hard time separating their own feelings or beliefs from legal proceedings. Jurors occasionally convict a defendant even when there isn’t enough evidence to support a guilty verdict. Prosecution is required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of legal proof. If the jury convicts when there is another logical explanation, they’ve made a decision on insufficient evidence that may qualify you for a new trial with a new jury.
4. Excluding necessary evidence or allowing improper evidence
If you believe that there was evidence integral to your defense or evidence was included your trial that may have unfairly swayed a jury, an appeal might be right for you.
5. Prosecution misconduct
If the prosecutor attempted to persuade the jury by dishonest methods that were so prejudicial that the judge couldn’t correct the situation by instructing the jury to disregard the improper act or by striking the evidence or statement in question, you may be entitled to an appeal. That means that whatever the prosecutor did that was unethical must cause prejudice among the jury. If it doesn’t cause prejudice, you are not qualified for a new trial.
Some examples of prosecutorial misconduct could be:
- Commenting in evidence that wasn’t allowed in the courtroom
- Purposely miscommunicating a law or the evidence
- Appealing to the jury’s passions or prejudices
6. Issues with jury selection, conduct or instruction
It’s a common misconception that juries are randomly selected from members of your community. However, it’s often true that the defense and prosecution chooses jurors that may sympathize with the party they represent. The trick for the lawyers is to do so in a way that the other side agrees on that juror selection. Therefore, it is possible that a juror with a personal interest in the case or a strong belief that would normally disqualify them to participate in a certain jury would hide that interest or belief in order to move a verdict to align with their own views. This would be an example of improper jury selection and conduct.
Erroneous jury instruction typically stems from prosecutorial misconduct if a jury is not instructed to disregard unethical information.
How do I make an appeal in California?
There are a few things that are important to keep in mind if you’re considering filing an appeal in California.
- First, you must be a party in the case in question. You cannot file an appeal on behalf of someone else unless you’re appointed as a legal representative for that person.
- Does your case meet any of the criteria listed above? If not, it’s unlikely that the court will consider your case.
- There is a limit on how long after a verdict has been met that you can file an appeal.
If you’ve covered all your bases, you need to file a Notice of Appeal to begin the appeals process. The Judicial Branch of California has a step-by-step guide that you can access here.
How could an appeals attorney help me?
The appeals process is undoubtedly complicated. An experienced California appeals attorney can help you navigate this multi-step process seamlessly. Don’t risk your future in this tenuous situation. Contact the Law Offices of Grant Bettencourt to file an appeal with a California criminal defense lawyer that can help you overturn your conviction.