How Can You Challenge a Criminal Conviction?

January 14, 2022 Criminal Defense

Challenging a Criminal Conviction in Florida

While it doesn’t happen often, there are times when judges make mistakes. They are human just the same as you and me, and because of that they are not perfect. For this reason, there is the Court of Appeals. A mistake made by a judge in a criminal case can have serious consequences. The most detrimental outcome is when the mistakes lead to a wrongful conviction.

If this happens, you are eligible to appeal your case with the appellate court to challenge any of the possible legal errors that were made during trial. The purpose of the appellate court is to ensure that the laws applied in the trial court were completed correctly. The last thing you want is to be convicted of a crime due to the error of someone else.

An appeal is a legal process that is designed to review the decisions made in the trial court to see whether or not harmful legal errors occurred within your case. It is a right that is guaranteed by the both the U.S. and Florida Constitution for any part to a civil court case. Florida Statute Section 924 covers criminal appeals and collateral review. Under the statute it explains that either the defendant or the state has the right to appeal in a criminal case.

It is important to note that an appeal does not mean a retrial. In addition, it is not the defining factor of whether or not a defendant is innocent or guilty. By submitting an appeal, you are asking the appellate court to review the conviction and sentence to determine if either outcome was a result of a mistake made by the trial judge.

It is important to go over what is eligible for an appeal, as well as the process, in order to get a better understanding of appeals in Florida.

What Types of Cases are Eligible for Appeal?

There are specific requirements for an appeal to be filed for your case. There has to have been a legal and prejudicial error made in the trial court. If the errors did not change the outcome of the verdict, then it would be considered a harmless error, meaning the appellate court would allow the verdict to stand. In a criminal case, possible grounds for an appeal include juror misconduct, legal error, and ineffective assistance of the counsel. The following is a list of what can be included:

  • Evidence that was improperly admitted or excluded
  • Incorrect jury instructions
  • Lack of sufficient evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt
  • Jury misconduct including but not limited to drug or alcohol abuse during the trial, and improper communication between jurors and witnesses
  • Bias of jury selection
  • Inadequate representation of prosecution errors
  • Pretrial or trial ruling errors

In addition, the supposed error must have been preserved by an objection in the court room. The District Court of Appeal will be able to determine whether or not an error occurred, and if it caused a harmful outcome to your case. Working with an attorney can help determine if these requirements have been met for your specific case.

Under the Florida Statute Section 924.051, prejudicial error means there has been an error in the trial court that has harmfully affected the judgment or sentence. Preserved means that an issue, legal argument, or objection to evidence was timely raised before and ruled on by the trial court.

What are the Steps of Challenging a Conviction?

In a criminal case, there are five stages that exist:

  1. Pre-trial discovery and motions
  2. Resolution via trial or plea of guilty/no contest
  3. Sentencing
  4. Direct appeal
  5. Collateral attack using post-conviction motions

To begin an appeal process, the first step is to file a Notice of Appeal. It includes the trial transcript and court records from the Record on Appeal. The difference between an appeal and  post-conviction relief is that the appellate court does not look at any new evidence. It is only the record of proceedings that is reviewed.

A written brief is then filed from both sides of the appeal to challenge or uphold the conviction or sentence. The Federal Court of Appeals often decide on the appeal case only from the briefs. There could potentially be an oral argument given as well. In the case of a federal criminal case, the conviction is rarely reversed without an oral argument.

What Happens with the Result of an Appeal?

If the appellate court has confirmed the lower court’s judgment, then the case would end. This is unless the losing party then appeals to a higher court. The lower court’s decision would still stand if the appeals court dismisses the appeal.

In the case that the judgment has been reversed, then then appeals court will typically remand the case. The case would then be sent back to the lower court and order the trial court to take further action. With this would potentially come the following actions:

  • Holding a new trial for the case
  • Modifying or correcting the trial court’s judgement
  • The trial court in reconsidering the facts, taking additional evidence, or considering the case in light of a decision by the appellate court

The best way to be sure your case is eligible for an appeal is to reach out to an experienced defense attorney. They can help walk you through the process of filing an appeal and ensure that all the proper steps have been taken to check if any errors occurred during your trial.

Finding an Attorney for Appeals in Florida

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime, your first step should be reaching out to an attorney in your area. Receiving quality legal advice and help can make the difference in your case. You can be reassured that Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have the experience and skill required to defend your case. They are prepared to stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. From the time you have been accused of a crime all the way through the court room, Don and his team will be with you every step of the way. Call (850) 681-7777 and receive a free consultation regarding your case today.

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