An appeal of a criminal conviction may be an individual’s last best hope at freedom. Appeals in criminal cases share many features in common with civil appeals, but there are also significant differences. Paying attention to these differences can be critical to a successful appeal of a criminal conviction or ruling in a criminal matter.
There Are More Routes Back to Court in a Criminal Case
A person convicted of a crime has the right to appeal the conviction to a higher court. This is known as a direct appeal or an appeal “as of right.” As in civil appeals, this appeal is generally limited to a review of the trial record to determine whether any errors were made at trial which would entitle the defendant-appellant to a reversal of the conviction or a new trial.
In addition to the direct appeal, the convicted individual may also seek post-conviction relief. A motion to vacate the sentence is one such route for collateral relief. In this situation, the defendant may ask the court to look at additional evidence rather than simply review the trial transcript. For instance, there may be new evidence which has come to light which would tend to exonerate the defendant, but this evidence was not available during the discovery phase before the original trial or at the time the original trial was conducted. For example, a witness comes forward with new information, newly-discovered DNA evidence tends to exonerate the defendant, or another person confesses to the crime.
The Grounds for Appeal in a Criminal Case are Broader than a Civil Case
Many times, the grounds for an appeal in a criminal case are based on the claim that inadmissible evidence was allowed into the trial. For instance, evidence may have been obtained on the basis of a warrantless search or warrantless arrest; or testimony may have been allowed which was highly prejudicial to the defendant but of little probative value. The defendant can argue on appeal that the judge erred in allowing evidence of this type to be presented to the jury.
In addition, the Constitution guarantees several rights to the accused in a criminal prosecution, including:
If any of these rights were violated at trial, the matter may be raised on appeal and may entitle the defendant to a reversal of the conviction or a new trial. As just one example, the court may have allowed a witness to testify through a videotaped deposition which did not afford the defendant the opportunity to conduct an effective cross-examination.
Other grounds may exist for an appeal of a criminal conviction as well. Police or prosecutorial misconduct at any stage of the proceedings, from arrest through trial, may raise implications that the defendant was denied the due process of law guaranteed by the constitution. This could include, for example, failure to read the Miranda rights, tampering with evidence or witnesses, false arrest, or abuse of process.
Contact Our Experienced Boca Raton, Ft Lauderdale & West Palm Beach Criminal Appeals Attorneys Today, We Can Help!
The appellate team of attorneys at Bresky Law are experienced in criminal appeals in Florida state and federal courts and are committed to rectifying incidents where the accused was not afforded a fair and impartial trial. If you believe errors were committed in your trial which led to your conviction, contact us at our office in Boca Raton to speak with one of our criminal appeals attorneys.