The ability to appeal a criminal conviction is a constitutionally protected right that is incredibly important to the integrity of our criminal justice system. There are various reasons you may want to appeal a criminal conviction, including:
- Ineffective assistance of counsel;
- Faulty evidentiary ruling by the court;
- Faulty jury instructions;
- Unfair or biased trial; or
- Excessive sentencing.
Appealing a criminal conviction does not automatically mean that you are going to be granted a new trial. Filing an appeal is a complex process, it is important to work closely with an attorney who can provide guidance along the way. There are deadlines, rules, and arguments that apply specifically to the appeals process and any mistakes could undermine your chances for a successful appeal.
How Does the Appeals Process Work?
The appeals process starts at the time of the original trial. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, you may end up fighting the case in court. During your criminal trial, the judge will likely make several rulings based on precedent, as well as statutory law. The judge may rule on evidence, on what specific jury instructions the jury will receive, as well as about which laws apply to your specific case. Almost any ruling by the court could be subject to appeal in the future.
At your trial, you may wonder why your attorney objects to things despite being continually overruled by the judge. This is your lawyer’s job; what he or she is doing is preserving the objection in the event that your case needs to be appealed. Certain appeals can only be made if an objection was made on the record during the initial criminal trial.
When you appeal your case to an appellate court, the appeals court will not retry the case. You appeal pursuant to a matter of law. What that means is the appellate court will not decide again whether the testimony of a witness was credible; rather, it will determine if the lower court erred in allowing the testimony in the first place. Another example would be appealing the admissibility of evidence. The appellate court will not analyze the evidence itself, but whether the court erred as a matter of law in allowing the evidence during your trial.
What Happens If I Win My Appeal?
Winning an appeal may mean several different things depending on the nature of your case. It could mean getting a new trial with directions from the appellate court on what is admissible. Winning an appeal may even mean that your conviction is set aside or that a key piece of evidence is thrown out. There are different ways a lawyer can “win” your appeal that depend on what exactly is being appealed from the initial trial.