When can we Appeal?
After a court has convicted and sentenced a criminal defendant, the defendant may file an appeal to a higher court, asking it to review the lower court’s decision for legal errors that may have affected the outcome of the case. If the appellate court grants the appeal, it may reverse the lower court’s decision in whole or in part. If the appellate court denies the appeal, the lower court’s decision stands.
What are the Grounds for an Appeal?
Improper exclusion or admission of evidence.
Before a trial, there is a hearing to determine which evidence will or won’t be allowed at trial. The prosecution and defense each bring in their own evidence. Each usually objects to the opposing side’s evidence. The judge ultimately decides which evidence to allow at trial. But at trial, if a judge mistakenly excludes proper evidence, or allows improper evidence and the opposition objects, then this could be presented as a legal error on appeal.
When law enforcement arrests someone without probable cause or a warrant (and the arrest doesn’t fall into an exception where a warrant is not required), then it is considered a false arrest. Also, if a faulty search warrant led to an arrest, then that also may be grounds for an appeal.
Incorrect jury instructions.
Jury instructions are how a judge advises the jury of the laws applicable to the case. This usually happens at the end of a trial. But if a judge fails to inform the jury of the correct application of the law, or fails to include all applicable laws for a verdict, then these are incorrect jury instructions and potential grounds for an appeal.
Ineffective assistance of counsel.
If a defense attorney did a very poor job of representing a client, so much so that it falls below the expected standard of competence, then that qualifies as ineffective assistance of counsel. For instance, if an alibi witness could be crucial to the defense, and the defense attorney does not call that witness to the stand, then that could be ineffective assistance of counsel. Other examples include failing to object to improper evidence, missing court hearings or motion deadlines, falling asleep in court, or abusing drugs or alcohol during trial.
There are many factors that go into how a defendant is sentenced, including prior offenses, and the type and number of concurrent crimes of which the defendant is convicted. Depending on these factors, judges must follow different rules in sentencing—such as delivering consecutive or concurrent sentences. If, for example, a judge sentences a defendant consecutively when he should have imposed concurrent sentences, then this may be grounds for an appeal.
Insufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict.
For a criminal conviction, there must be enough evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If a jury convicts without sufficient evidence, then the jury may have based its decision on prejudice or emotion, though this is very hard to prove.
As a part of law enforcement, a district attorney (DA) should always uphold justice. But prosecutors may sometimes do unethical things, such as commenting on inadmissible evidence, purposely misstating the law, or appealing to a jury’s emotions or prejudices. Worst of all, prosecutors and police officers sometimes suppress or hide evidence that would benefit the defendant.
For a successful appeal, you must demonstrate that egregious legal errors occurred at trial, and those material errors prevented you or a loved one from getting a fair trial. Winning appellate attorney Omar Jaleel can help you formulate the best possible appeal.
The Appeals Process
The Appeals Process: Motion for a New Trial
The Appeals Process: The Notice of Appeal
The Appeals Process- The Appellate Record
The Appeals Process: The Appellate Briefs
The Appeals Process: The Oral Arguments
The Appeals Process: After the Appellate Court Decision and Supreme Court Review