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What are the grounds for a criminal appeal?

What are the Grounds for a Criminal Appeal? Your Ultimate Guide

Introduction: When the Verdict Doesn’t Feel Right

You fought hard. You believed in your innocence with every fiber of your being. But at the end of that grueling trial, the judge or jury delivered a verdict that shook you to your core – guilty.It just doesn’t feel right. Maybe there were mistakes made, evidence mishandled, or your legal representation fell short. Whatever the reason, that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach tells you this can’t be the end.Well, we’ve got news for you – it’s not over yet. You may have grounds to appeal the decision and potentially get that conviction overturned or sent back for a brand new trial. Interested? Then keep reading, because our criminal appeals team at Spodek Law Group is about to take you on a guided tour through the world of criminal appeals.But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s start with the basics:

What is a criminal appeal? An appeal is a formal request to have a higher court review and reconsider a decision made by a lower court. In a criminal case, this means asking an appellate court to examine the trial record for any errors that may have affected the outcome.

The key thing to understand is that an appeal is not a new trial. The appellate judges aren’t going to re-hear all the evidence and testimony. Their job is to scrutinize the original trial proceedings and decide if any mistakes were made that violated your rights or the rules of criminal procedure.If they find grounds for appeal, they can order a new trial, overturn the conviction entirely, or modify the sentence imposed. It’s a long shot, but it could be your last hope.So don’t give up just yet. With the help of our skilled appellate attorneys, we may be able to identify grounds for appeal and fight to get you the justice you deserve.

Common Grounds to Appeal a Criminal Conviction

Okay, so what exactly constitutes “grounds” for an appeal? In other words, what kinds of errors can potentially get a conviction overturned or a new trial ordered?Well, there are several possible grounds, but some of the most common include:

1. Improper Admission or Exclusion of Evidence

One of the biggest roles of a trial judge is deciding what evidence can and can’t be presented to the jury. They have to follow strict rules about things like hearsay, relevance, prejudice, and authentication.If the judge got these evidence rules wrong by allowing inadmissible evidence in or keeping out evidence that was proper, it could have tainted the verdict. That’s often grounds for appeal.For example, let’s say the prosecutor introduced your criminal record from a previous case at trial, despite you never taking the witness stand. Whoa, huge no-no! Evidence of your prior bad acts is extremely prejudicial if you’re not testifying, and it could have led the jury to convict based on your “propensity for crime” rather than the actual facts.That’s the kind of evidentiary error that could get your conviction overturned on appeal if our attorneys can show it violated your constitutional rights to a fair trial.

2. Insufficient Evidence to Support the Verdict

For the government to convict you of a crime, they must prove each and every element of that crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on the admissible evidence presented. If the evidence was just too scant, contradictory, or circumstantial to meet that high burden of proof, you may have grounds to appeal.Let’s look at a hypothetical example:

You were convicted of armed robbery, but the evidence showed only that you were near the scene of the crime around the estimated time, based on cell phone records. However, there were no credible eyewitnesses, no physical evidence tying you to the robbery, and no plausible motive presented.

In that scenario, our appellate team could potentially argue that no reasonable jury could have found you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based on such flimsy evidence. If the higher court agrees, they might toss out the conviction for lack of sufficient proof.

3. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

As a criminal defendant, you have a Sixth Amendment right to reasonably effective legal representation. If your trial attorney’s performance was so incompetent that it violated this constitutional guarantee, it could justify an appeal and a new trial with better counsel.Now, the bar for proving ineffective assistance is pretty high – honest mistakes or mere strategic disagreements usually won’t cut it. But if your lawyer clearly dropped the ball in a way that prejudiced your defense, we may be able to get the conviction reversed.For instance, what if your attorney failed to investigate an alibi witness who could have accounted for your whereabouts during the crime? Or accidentally allowed extremely damaging hearsay statements to be admitted without objection? Blunders like that could meet the legal test for ineffective assistance.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
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Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
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divesh patel
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I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

4. Prosecutorial Misconduct

Prosecutors are ministers of justice, with a duty to play fair and protect your constitutional rights – even as they try to convict you. If a prosecutor pulled any unethical stunts that deprived you of a fair trial, we may have grounds to appeal.Some examples of potential prosecutorial misconduct include:

  • Knowingly presenting false testimony or evidence
  • Improperly vouching for the credibility of a witness
  • Making inflammatory “send a message” arguments intended to incite the jury
  • Failing to disclose exculpatory evidence that could have helped your defense
  • Discriminating against jurors based on race or gender during jury selection

Stuff like that is a big no-no that violates due process and could get your conviction thrown out if properly raised on appeal.

5. Jury Misconduct or Errors

We all like to think a jury will follow the law and do its job impartially and without bias. But the reality is, juries can act improperly in ways that taint the verdict and provide grounds for appeal.Maybe a juror lied about being impartial during voir dire and had an undisclosed conflict of interest. Or perhaps the jury considered evidence or did experiments during deliberations that they weren’t supposed to. A juror could have even been unfairly dismissed for no good reason.If our appellate specialists can prove the jury seriously messed up in a way that violated your right to a fair and impartial trial, the conviction could get reversed.

6. Incorrect Jury Instructions

Juries have to follow the judge’s legal instructions on things like the elements of a crime, the burden of proof, evaluating witness credibility, and more. If those instructions had serious errors that could have misled the jury, it might be grounds for appeal.For example, let’s say you were charged with first-degree murder, which requires premeditation and intent to kill. But the jury instructions defined the intent element incorrectly, causing the jurors to convict you for an unintentional killing that should have been manslaughter at most.Errors in the jury charge are some of the most common grounds for appeal because getting the law wrong is a big deal. Our appellate specialists know to scrutinize those instructions carefully.

7. Abuse of Discretion by the Judge

Trial judges have a lot of discretion in making certain decisions, like ruling on evidence objections, allowing or denying delays, controlling courtroom decorum, and more. But that discretion isn’t unlimited – judges have to follow the rules and act reasonably.If a judge abused their discretion in a way that violated your rights or compromised the fairness of the proceedings, it could potentially be grounds for a new trial on appeal. Maybe the judge wrongly excluded your key witness’s testimony without justification, or imposed arbitrary time limits that prevented you from fully presenting your defense.Appellate courts have to give trial judges some leeway in managing their courtrooms. But if the judge goes too far and commits a “clear” or “gross” abuse of discretion that prejudices your case, we may be able to get relief.

8. Sentencing Errors or Irregularities

Even if the guilty verdict itself was legally sound, you may still have grounds to appeal if the judge made mistakes in sentencing you. Sentencing errors can lead to an excessive, unfair, or even illegal sentence being imposed.For instance, let’s say you were convicted of a non-violent drug crime carrying a 5-year maximum under the sentencing guidelines. But the judge mistakenly thought the maximum was 10 years and sentenced you to 8 years in prison. That’s a reversible error right there.Or perhaps the judge based your sentence on incorrect facts, failed to consider important mitigating factors like your lack of criminal history, or just handed down a shockingly excessive sentence outside the norm. All of those could potentially be appealed as illegal sentences.The bottom line is, you have rights at sentencing too. If the judge dropped the ball in calculating or imposing your sentence, our appellate pros may be able to get it corrected.So those are some of the main grounds for appealing a criminal conviction. But how exactly does the process work? Let’s take a look…

The Criminal Appeals Process Explained

Okay, so let’s assume our appellate team has reviewed your case and believes you do in fact have viable grounds to challenge your conviction or sentence. What happens next?The first key step is filing a Notice of Appeal with the district court where you were convicted. This is a crucial document that officially initiates the appeals process by putting the court on notice that you intend to appeal. Miss the strict time limit for getting this notice on file (usually 30 days from sentencing for a federal case), and you may lose your right to appeal entirely.Once that notice is filed, the district court will assemble the full record of your case proceedings – that includes transcripts of all testimony, judges’ rulings, evidence admitted, jury instructions, and so on. This record is then transmitted to the appellate court that will hear your case.From there, the appeals process looks a bit different depending on whether your case is in the state or federal system:State Appeals Process:

  • If you’re appealing a state conviction, it first goes to an intermediate appeals court. In New York, that would be the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court.
  • Both sides submit written briefs laying out the legal arguments for why the conviction should be upheld or overturned.
  • The appellate court will then schedule oral arguments where the lawyers get to make their case in person.
  • A panel of judges will review everything and issue a written decision granting or denying your appeal.
  • If you lose at the intermediate level, you can try taking it to the state’s highest court like New York’s Court of Appeals, but that’s discretionary – they don’t have to hear your case.

Federal Appeals Process:

  • For a federal conviction, your appeal bypasses any intermediate step and goes straight to the U.S. Court of Appeals for your federal circuit (e.g. the 2nd Circuit for a case out of New York).
  • Again, both sides file briefs and present oral arguments to a panel of appellate judges.
  • If you lose at this level, your last resort is a long-shot petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, which grants review in only a tiny fraction of cases each year.

Throughout this process, our appellate specialists are hard at work developing legal strategies, writing persuasive briefs, and preparing thoroughly to make compelling oral arguments on your behalf.It’s a fight every step of the way. But if we can get the appellate judges to agree that your conviction was tainted by reversible error, you could get a new trial or have the charges dismissed entirely.

What If My Appeal is Denied? Other Post-Conviction Options

Even with the strongest possible grounds for appeal and the top-notch advocacy of our firm, there’s always a chance the appellate courts could deny your appeal and let the original conviction stand.If that nightmare scenario plays out, it’s not necessarily the end of the road. Depending on the circumstances, you may still have other post-conviction options for challenging your case, such as:State Collateral Review: In addition to a direct appeal, many states allow convicted defendants to file collateral appeals raising issues that couldn’t have been brought up on direct appeal, like newly discovered evidence or claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.Federal Habeas Corpus: If you’re convicted in state court, you can file a habeas petition in federal court arguing that your conviction or sentence violates the U.S. Constitution or other federal law. It’s an uphill battle, but some habeas petitions do succeed.Sentence Modifications: Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a motion asking the court to modify or reduce your sentence, like if you provide substantial assistance to the government or there are retroactive changes to sentencing laws.The key point is, our tenacious legal team never stops fighting for you. Even if one avenue is cut off, we’ll explore every possible remaining path to justice and freedom.

Why Choose Spodek Law Group for Your Criminal Appeal?

By now, you’ve gotten a crash course in the grounds for appealing a criminal conviction and how that process works. But you may be wondering – why choose Spodek Law Group to handle such a make-or-break matter?Here are just a few of the reasons our criminal appeals team stands out:1. Unparalleled Expertise and ExperienceWhen your freedom and future hang in the balance of an appeal, you can’t afford to trust just any lawyer. You need a team with a specialized mastery of appellate law and procedures.At Spodek Law Group, our appellate attorneys have decades of combined experience representing clients in both state and federal appeals courts. We’ve handled thousands of criminal appeals on every conceivable issue, from evidentiary errors to sentencing disputes to constitutional violations.Simply put, there are few firms in the nation with our level of knowledge and real-world experience in this niche practice area. We quite literally wrote the book on criminal appeals.2. Strategic, Meticulous ApproachPreparing and litigating a criminal appeal requires a strategic, detail-oriented approach. One missed deadline, one overlooked issue, one poorly-written brief could be the difference between winning and losing.That’s why our appellate process always starts with a comprehensive review of your entire case record by a team of lawyers. We’ll comb through every transcript, every exhibit, every ruling looking for any and all potential grounds for appeal.From there, we carefully develop a targeted legal strategy focused on your strongest appellate issues. We craft air-tight briefs that seamlessly blend mastery of the law with a compelling narrative. And we relentlessly prepare for oral arguments, mooting potential questions from the judges over and over.It’s this level of thoroughness and attention to detail that gives our clients a true edge on appeal.3. Passionate AdvocacyLook, we get it – you’re probably feeling defeated, demoralized, and maybe even a little hopeless after getting convicted. Losing at the trial level can take the wind out of your sails.But here’s the thing – our appellate warriors live for this fight. We absolutely relish the chance to go toe-to-toe with the government and battle for your rights before the highest courts. When you feel like the legal system has failed you, we’ll be your fiercest advocates.You can expect our appellate team to pour every ounce of passion, grit, and creativity into crafting the most persuasive possible arguments for your appeal. We’ll leave no stones unturned in pursuit of justice for you.4. Holistic ApproachAt Spodek Law Group, we understand that an appeal is just one part of a much larger journey through the criminal justice system. So our representation always takes a holistic view aimed at maximizing your overall position.Sure, we may identify a strong issue to appeal your conviction. But we’ll also explore other potential avenues of relief, like negotiating for a reduced sentence, petitioning for compassionate release, or positioning you for a presidential pardon down the road.The point is, our appellate strategy is always aligned with your overarching goals and best interests. We never lose sight of the big picture as we fight for you in the appellate trenches.5. Transparency and CommunicationOne of the most frustrating things about being a criminal defendant is the lack of communication and transparency from your own legal team. ??You deserve better than that!When you become a client of Spodek Law Group, you can expect open and honest communication every step of the way. We’ll break down the complex appeals process for you in plain English, manage your expectations, and be upfront about the challenges we face.You’ll never be left in the dark wondering what’s going on with your appeal. We’ll keep you in the loop through regular updates and be available to answer any questions you have along the way.

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