Being convicted of a crime can dramatically alter your life. It can affect your ability to obtain employment and will undoubtedly add pressure to your life. If you are convicted of a crime, you are likely facing jail time and other serious consequences. However, being convicted of a crime does not mean that all hope is lost. You have the constitutional right to appeal your conviction.
If your conviction is reversed, any sentence that was imposed by the court will be reversed. It will give you a second chance to clear your name and save your freedom.
Let’s take a look at four steps you must take in order to maximize your chances of winning your criminal appeal…
1. Find an experienced appeals attorney
Finding the right criminal appeals attorney is a difficult process. It requires you to do your research to determine which criminal appeals lawyer has the experience you need to help you successfully pursue your appeal.
You also must make certain that your attorney has specific experience with criminal appeals. The appeals process is unique and your attorney should have represented many clients in criminal appeals matters. You should also read testimonials from clients who have hired the lawyer in the past. You should go to websites respected websites that rate attorneys such as Avvo.com and Lawyers.com to find client reviews.
Finally, be absolutely certain that the attorney you select has not merely “handled” appeals. Again, the process is unique to the field of criminal law, and your attorney should have substantial experience in criminal appeals matters.
2. File the Notice of Appeal (California Penal Code Section 1237.5)
Once you have settled on your attorney, it is now time to begin the appeals process. This first means filing a Notice of Appeal. The Notice of Appeal must be filed with the trial court, not the appellate court.
Depending on whether you were convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or infraction, you will file the corresponding notice of appeal form for your court. If you were convicted of a felony, this must be filed within 60 days after you were sentenced. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or an infraction, you have 30 days to file your Notice of Appeal.
3. Reviewing the Record on Appeal
Once your attorney files a notice of appeal, the clerk of the trial court will begin to prepare the Record on Appeal, which consists of the clerk’s transcript and the reporter’s transcript.
The clerk’s transcript is a copy of every legal document that was filed in your case. The reporter’s transcript is a record of all the words that were spoken during the trial by the lawyers, judge and all witnesses.
After your criminal appeals lawyer receives the transcripts, your attorney will begin the lengthy process of reviewing all the documents. It is your attorney’s job to discover any possible legal errors that were made during your trial. Transcripts can total thousands of pages. This requires a tremendous amount of time on the part of your criminal appeals lawyer to make certain all documents are read carefully. The entire purpose of reviewing the record on appeal is so that your criminal appeals attorney can prepare the opening brief.
4. Preparing and Filing the Opening Brief in Your Case
The opening brief will summarize what happened in your case and provide legal arguments that support your appeal. For example, you may have been wrongly convicted because:
- There was not enough evidence provided at trial to support the jury’s decision;
- The prosecutor committed legal errors that require that your conviction be reversed;
- There was juror misconduct;
- The trial judge made incorrect legal rulings in your case that require reversal of your conviction; or
- Your trial lawyer failed to object to evidence in your trial or made other legal errors that require reversal of your conviction.
The attorney general handles all appellate matters for California. It is the attorney general’s job to review your lawyer’s opening brief and file a response, which is called the Respondent’s Brief. In the Respondent’s Brief, the attorney general will explain to the Court of Appeals that your conviction should not be reversed.
Finally, your criminal appeals lawyer will have the opportunity to file a Reply Brief. This allows your lawyer to respond to the Respondent’s Brief.
5. Oral Argument
The Court of Appeals will then notify your criminal appeals lawyer and the attorney general that they are ready to hear oral arguments. This means that the two lawyers can argue before the three justices of the court of appeal who will be assigned to your case. This argument is set by the court several weeks in advance. You are welcome to appear at the oral argument to listen to what is said.
6. The Decision
The Court of Appeals will listen to oral arguments. Then, the justices will confer with each other. Finally, they will issue a written decision.
This written decision will either affirm or reverse your conviction. If the Court of Appeals affirms your conviction, it stands and you will have to speak to your criminal appellate lawyer to find out your next legal option.
If the court of appeals reverses your conviction, the trial court will be notified and this often means you will be entitled to a new trial.
An Appeals Attorneys Can Help You Win Your Criminal Appeal
As you can see, there are many complicated aspects of appealing your criminal conviction. Every step of the way you may be met with roadblocks and other discouraging impediments. Having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney will give you the best chance at having your appeal granted. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have been successfully handling our clients’ criminal appeals for over 30 years.
With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, our attorneys are available to help you no matter where you live or work.
Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 to discuss your case. We will get through this together.