Appealing Criminal Conviction in California
A criminal conviction carries a lot of consequences for you. Finding housing, a job, and even friends can be difficult if you have a criminal record.
If you or your attorney believes you were unjustly convicted of a crime because of an unfair trial, the state of California allows you to file an appeal. An appeal is not the same as a new trial — it is simply a request for an appellate court to review the case.
For your appeal to be successful, the appeals court must conclude that there was a legal error made in your trial and that the error had a significant impact on the outcome. If either of these cannot be clearly illustrated, you will likely lose your appeal.
In addition, you cannot file an appeal simply because you dislike the outcome. You must have specific grounds under which you ask for your case to be reviewed by an appellate court.
Grounds for Appealing Your Criminal Conviction
California provides several options under which you can file for an appeal of your criminal conviction.
Appealing a conviction is complicated, and you should use the help of a skilled appeals attorney. They will be able to help you understand which grounds for your appeal give you the best chance of having your conviction overturned.
Your Arrest Was Improper
When police officers make a wrongful or false arrest, this can be grounds for getting your case overturned. Some examples of an improper arrest include:
- Being arrested without being properly informed of your Miranda rights
- Being arrested because of an improper search of your home, office, or vehicle
- Being arrested without a proper warrant
- Police force a false confession by using improper interrogation tactics
If your arrest was handled in a way that circumvents the law, this scenario could provide the legal argument you need to have your case reviewed by an appeals court. If they agree that the arrest was improper, your conviction could be overturned.
Evidentiary Issues in Your Trial
The way evidence is handled, introduced, or excluded in a trial is important. Rules are in place to protect the rights of the defendant. When mistakes are made regarding how evidence is handled or presented, you may have solid grounds for an appeal.
The appeals court can determine whether the evidence was improperly included or excluded. They can also examine whether the amount of evidence was sufficient for the jury to reasonably come to their conclusion. If anything about the evidence used in your trial is in doubt, your case could be overturned.
Misconduct by the Prosecutor
Prosecutors can sometimes have a “win-at-all-costs” attitude when trying cases. This can lead them to employ improper and even dishonest methods in an attempt to obtain a conviction. Examples of prosecutorial misconduct include:
- Making comments about evidence the judge ruled could not be used in your trial
- Knowingly making misstatements about evidence or the relevant laws
- Manipulating the jury’s emotions
If the appeals court determines that the prosecutor’s wrongful actions significantly impacted your case, they may decide in your favor when considering your appeal.
Misconduct by the Jury
Sometimes a jury’s action or inaction can cause a criminal conviction to be changed. Improper behavior by a jury can deprive the defendant of their right to a fair trial. Jury misconduct can happen when:
- There is improper communication between the jury and a lawyer or a witness
- There is alcohol or drug use by one or more jurors during deliberations
- The jury will not engage in deliberations
In some cases where jury misconduct can be proven, it is easier to win your appeal. This is because it will be up to the prosecutor to prove that the jury misconduct did not affect the outcome of your case.
What Happens If You Win Your Appeal?
If you win your appeal in a California appellate court, one of three things can happen:
- The decision in your case is reversed, and the charges against you are dismissed
- The court may grant you a new trial
- The court will “remand” or send back your case to the lower court with instructions to remedy the issue
The grounds of your appeal and the strength of your case are factors in determining how the appellate court will remedy your incorrect conviction. Because the stakes are high, you should use the services of an attorney with experience presenting cases to an appeals court.
The Esfandi Law Group represents those who have been convicted of a crime but believe they have grounds for an appeal.
Call us today if you believe that you have a solid legal case that could overturn your conviction. We can provide you with a free, no-obligation consultation where we can discuss the details of your case and review your legal options.
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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.