What issues can I contest on appeal?
Being convicted after a jury trial is devastating, to say the least. While hearing the word “guilty” might seem like the end of the road, it is important to remember that you have the legal right to file an appeal after your conviction. Appeals are complex and their scope limited, but in some circumstances an appeal could result in the reversal of your conviction or orders for a new trial. Our NYC appellate attorneys at Barket Epstein explore some of the most common grounds for a criminal appeal below.
Appeals Are Based on Law, Not Facts
Generally, a criminal appeal must be based on laws and not facts. An appellate court will traditionally defer to the trial court as to issues of fact. For example, if the jury heard conflicting testimony as to whether a defendant brandished a gun, the appellate court would usually accept the jury’s conclusion on this factual dispute. Instead, your grounds for a criminal appeal should focus on issues of law.
Legal grounds mean that an error in the judgement resulted from an issue with the law as related to the case. To prevail on appeal, the legal ground must be material and the issue needs to have been preserved by your defense counsel for appeal. Some of the most common legal grounds for an appeal include:
- Improper exclusion or admission of evidence: Before trial, there will be a hearing to determine what evidence will be admitted or excluded during the trial. If your attorney objected to the admission or exclusion of certain evidence, then this decision can be contested on appeal. The appellate court will assess whether the judge made a legal error in excluding or admitting the evidence at issue.
- Incorrect jury instructions: At the end of the trial, the jury was provided with a set of instructions that advised the jury how to apply the law to the case. Jury instructions are of critical importance and if you believe the jury was not properly instructed, this might be a grounds on appeal.
- Sentencing errors: Sentencing can be complex as it will depend on the type of crime, prior offense, and more. State sentencing laws can be misapplied by judges. Should an error exist in the sentencing, an appellate court may remand for resentencing.
- Ineffective assistance of counsel: Per U.S. law, all defendants have the right to the effective assistance of counsel. When a defendant believes the conduct of his or her attorney fell short of how a reasonable counsel would act, this could form grounds for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim on appeal.
Appeals require thorough legal research and strict adherence to deadlines. Anyone convicted of a criminal offense should immediately contact an appellate attorney to get started formulating their appeal.
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