Criminal Appeals

If you have been convicted by a judge or jury of a misdemeanor or felony, you have the right to appeal that conviction if your case meets specific grounds. Criminal appeals must be grounded on a legal error made during your trial, so you’re not necessarily asking for a new trial because you disagree with the outcome; instead, you are asking a higher court to take a close look at certain aspects of the case to determine if a legal error exits. As a result, no new evidence can be considered if you are appealing a criminal conviction. In California, an automatic appeal is granted for capital offenses.

Common examples of why a conviction can be appealed include:

  • Exculpatory evidence was withheld by the prosecution
  • The court admitted that certain evidence should have been excluded from your trial
  • The court excluded evidence that should have been admitted
  • Your constitutional rights were violated during the criminal process from the time of your arrest to prosecution
  • There was juror misconduct
  • The jury that convicted you was given incorrect or confusing instructions
  • There was a sentencing error
  • Your counsel failed to effectively represent you

If your conviction was followed by a plea of guilty or no contest, then your appeal rights are limited. Generally you can only appeal only on the grounds of “reasonable constitutional, jurisdictional, or other grounds going to the legality of the proceedings” in this situation. In addition to establishing the legal grounds for your appeal, you must also show that if the error giving rise to the appeal had not been made, a different verdict or sentencing likely would have been reached.

What Does the Court Look at to Make a Decision in a Criminal Appeal?

When a court reviews a criminal appeal, they only look at the "record" of the proceedings from the lower court. As we stated above, the court doesn't consider any new evidence. The record from the lower court consists of the court reporter's transcripts of what was said in court by the judge, attorneys, or witnesses. Anything else that was admitted into evidence for the initial ruling, such as documents or objects, are also part of the record.

The appellate court also reviews the written briefs that must be filed by both sides of the appeal. When you challenge the conviction or sentence, you need to file an opening brief, which is the explanation/argument for how and why the conviction or sentence was legally "erroneous." The government also files its own brief to explain their reasoning for why the conviction or sentence should be upheld. You will usually have another opportunity to file a second brief in response to the government's position. The appellate court might also decide to hear oral arguments from both sides of the case before reaching a decision on the criminal appeal.

Our Award-Winning Criminal Defense Team Handles Appeals

If you have been convicted of a crime of, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experienced criminal defense team at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP to discuss whether you can file an appeal. You can count on us to guide you through every step of your case and to investigate every detail so we can building a strong legal strategy to pursue the justice you deserve. We are committed to working hard for our clients and have garnered a stellar reputation for providing aggressive and relentless legal representation.

To schedule your free case review with our firm, give us a call today at (800) 462-7160 or contact us online.