Courts sometimes make mistakes during trials, leading to wrongful convictions. When this happens, you can appeal your case and challenge any legal errors made during the trial or sentencing. The appellate court ensures that the trial court applied the law correctly. An appeal is not a retrial or new trial of the case, and it’s not used to decide whether a defendant is innocent or guilty.
In an appeal, you’re asking a higher court to review the conviction and sentence. The federal system has two tiers of appeals court, United States Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States
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The appeals process
The appeals process begins with filing a Notice of Appeal. The trial transcript and court records form the Record on Appeal. An appeal differs from post-conviction relief in that court doesn’t look at any new evidence – it only looks at the record of the proceedings in the lower court.
Both sides of the appeal then file written briefs challenging or upholding the conviction or sentence. When deciding on an appeal, the federal courts of appeals often decide on cases only from the briefs. They might also hear oral arguments as well. Convictions in federal criminal cases are usually not reversed if they don’t have an oral argument. The Opinion is the written decision of the court.
Grounds for appeal
The appellate court generally will only reverse a trial court for an error of law. The appellate court would have to find that the errors affected the outcome of the case. If the errors would not have changed the verdict, these would be considered harmless errors, and the appellate court would let the guilty verdict stand.
In criminal cases, possible grounds for an appeal include legal error, juror misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel. This can include:
- improperly admitted or excluded evidence
- incorrect jury instructions
- lack of sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict
- jury misconduct, such as drug or alcohol abuse during deliberations or trial, or improper communications between jurors and witnesses or counsel
- issues of bias during jury selection.
- inadequate representation
- prosecution errors
- errors in the pretrial or trial rulings by the judge
If the appeals court affirms the lower court’s judgment, then the case ends unless the losing party appeals to a higher court. If the appeals court dismisses the appeal, the lower court’s decision also still stands.
If the judgment is reversed, the appellate court usually remands the case, which means its sends the case back to a lower court and orders the trial court to take further action. It might order any of the following:
- a new trial be held
- the trial court’s judgment be modified or corrected
- the trial court reconsider the facts, take additional evidence, or consider the case in light of a recent decision by the appellate court
If you’ve been wrongly convicted, you need experienced appellate representation. The federal appeals attorneys of Joffe Law, P.A. have the knowledge needed to work on both the trial and appeals level. We will aggressively defend your rights. If you need more information on appeals or want to schedule a free consultation, call us today at 954-723-0007.