Reasons To Appeal Your Criminal Case Verdict
The criminal justice system makes mistakes every day. If you were convicted of a crime, there are often various reasons to appeal your criminal case. At the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall, our criminal defense attorneys have years of experience in criminal law, and we work tirelessly to ensure our clients’ rights are protected, especially if their criminal conviction is based on a legal error or violation of their constitutional rights. Call our office today at 703-934-0101 to set up a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.
What Is an Appeal?
A guilty verdict may be challenged in several ways, such as:
A motion to overturn the verdict
A motion for a new trial
An appeal to a higher court seeking the verdict to be reversed
When a criminal defendant is convicted, they have the opportunity to petition a higher court to hear their appeal. In Virginia, a guilty verdict can be appealed to the Virginia Court of Appeals within 30 days of sentencing under Virginia Law § 8.01-675.3.
Generally, an appeal asks the higher court to review the trial court’s record and determine if there were any errors substantial enough to reverse the decision of the trial court. Generally, these errors must be “preserved” at trial, which means the attorney must properly object to them on the record.
The appeal generally will not review issues of fact. For example, if you believe the jury should not have found a witness credible, that is unfortunately not an issue for an appellate court. Appeals courts will generally defer to the jury’s findings of fact. Rather, the appellate court focuses on identifying legal errors.
Grounds for Appeals
There are countless reasons to appeal a criminal case. During an appeal, you must identify all of the potential errors that occurred during the trial and ask the appellate court to review those errors. At the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall, we have seen courts and juries make mistakes that have led to wrongful convictions, which is why it is critical for defendants to consider appealing their criminal convictions. Some of the common grounds for appeals include:
Criminal defendants are entitled to various constitutional protections, ranging from effective assistance of counsel, the privilege against self-incrimination, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and Miranda warnings.
Ineffective assistance of counsel is an important right. You may be able to show that your previous attorney’s behavior fell below a generally accepted standard of conduct, and that conduct resulted in prejudice against your case. If you believe your previous lawyer did not provide you with adequate representation, and that caused you to be convicted of a crime, you should consider appealing that verdict.
Most legal errors are generally appealable. There is a difference between harmless error and plain error. A “harmless error” is a defect that will not impact or affect the substantial rights of the defendant. On the other hand, “plain error” is a mistake that impacted the substantial rights of the defendant, meaning that the error is likely to have contributed to the guilty verdict. A harmless error cannot be appealed, but a plain error may be appealed even if it was not preserved at trial.
Generally, any legal issue may be appealed if it was preserved at trial. Examples of these types of issues include:
Improper jury instructions
Improperly admitted evidence
Abuse of discretion in sentencing
Most prosecutors adhere to strict ethical guidelines in the state of Virginia, but occasionally, a prosecutor is dishonest or unethical in the way they carry out their duties. Prosecutorial misconduct can lead to severe prejudice against a defendant and, if left uncorrected at the trial level, can serve as grounds for appeal. Examples of prosecutorial misconduct include:
Making material misrepresentations during plea bargaining
Failing to turn exculpatory evidence over to the defense
Commenting on or asserting facts not admitted in evidence
Evidence or jury tampering
Speaking to the media in such a way as to prejudice the jury pool
There are many other ways in which a prosecutor’s behavior can improperly impact the outcome of the case. If the conduct is not corrected by the trial judge, this error may be appealed and could potentially cause the verdict to be reversed.
The jury is one of the most important players in a criminal trial. They must be an impartial and competent panel of people who will determine questions of fact based on the evidence presented. The jury selection process is intended to create a fair jury that is not prejudicial to either side, but the reality is that this is not always possible. Jury misconduct can be either intentional or unintentional, but any action that unfairly prejudices the jury or any individual jurors may be grounds for appeal. A few examples of jury misconduct include:
Jurors conversing about the case with witnesses, parties, or attorneys outside of the courtroom
A juror visiting the scene of the accident to obtain new information, not in evidence
Jurors independently researching the defendant
Talk to an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
The most important reason to appeal your criminal case verdict is to avoid serving a sentence for a crime you did not commit. However, the criminal appeal process can be complicated without the support of an attorney. To successfully appeal your guilty verdict, it requires a careful review of the trial record and a deep understanding of Virginia’s criminal and procedural laws. Trust our attorneys at the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall to continue to support you, even after receiving a criminal conviction. We have years of experience navigating Virginia’s criminal courts, and we deeply believe in protecting the rights of the accused. Call us today at 703-934-0101 to set up a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer.