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What is the likelihood of a conviction being overturned?

Hey there! If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering about the likelihood of getting a conviction overturned. I totally get it – having a conviction on your record can really mess things up. Let’s walk through this together and see if we can get you some answers.

First off, I want to acknowledge that this is a stressful situation. A conviction can limit your job opportunities, your ability to find housing, and even your personal relationships. I can imagine you feel anxious, angry, and just plain overwhelmed. It’s a lot to deal with. But you’re doing your research and trying to understand your options, which is awesome. There’s hope here.

Now, when it comes to overturning convictions, there’s no simple yes or no. It really depends on the specifics of your case – the crime you were convicted of, the evidence against you, the competence of your legal counsel, and so on.

What are the most common reasons convictions get overturned?

Let’s start with the main ways people are able to get their convictions tossed out:

  • New evidence comes to light that shows the defendant is innocent or creates reasonable doubt about their guilt.
  • There were significant errors made during the trial – by the judge, prosecutors, or defense attorneys – that affected the outcome.
  • The defendant’s constitutional rights were violated in some way during the arrest, investigation, or trial.
  • The conviction was based on invalid or improper evidence that should not have been allowed in court.
  • Key witnesses recant or change their testimony in major ways.

Those are the broad categories. Now let’s dig into specifics…

New Evidence

If new evidence surfaces that makes it clear the wrong person was convicted, that can be grounds for overturning the conviction. For example, DNA evidence can sometimes exonerate the defendant years later by proving someone else committed the crime. New eyewitnesses coming forward, recanted testimony, or other discoveries can also qualify as new evidence.

But it’s not enough for the evidence to just raise some questions – it has to actively undermine the original guilty verdict. So this route depends a lot on how strong the new proof is.

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.
Taïko Beauty
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!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
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.

Significant Trial Errors

Mistakes happen, and sometimes they’re bad enough to change the outcome. If your lawyer was incompetent, the judge was unfair, or prosecutors hid evidence, those could be reasons for appeal. Specific examples include:

  • – Ineffective assistance of counsel (your lawyer screwed up)
  • – Prosecutorial misconduct (prosecution did something shady or illegal)
  • – Judicial bias (the judge was unfairly against you)
  • – Jury problems (jury tampering, racism, etc.)

But it can’t just be any minor error – it has to be something that likely impacted the verdict. The bar is pretty high here.

Violations of Rights

If police or prosecutors violated your constitutional rights, that can also invalidate a conviction. Things like:

  • – Illegal search and seizure
  • – Self-incrimination violations
  • – Withholding access to an attorney
  • – Discrimination in jury selection

Again though, the violations have to be clear and substantial. Small technicalities usually won’t cut it.

Invalid Evidence

If prosecutors relied on evidence that should have been excluded from your trial, that may provide grounds for appeal. This includes things like:

  • – Hearsay
  • – Improperly obtained confessions
  • – Evidence from unconstitutional searches

So if a key piece of evidence violates the rules of evidence, it can remove a pillar upholding your conviction.

Changed Testimony

If the main witnesses against you recant or change their stories, it can undermine the prosecution’s case. For example, if they admit to lying under oath or say police pressured them into testifying. The credibility of the state’s evidence is weakened.

However, courts tend to be skeptical of “turned witnesses” and it may not be enough to alter the verdict on its own.

What are the odds of success?

Okay, now for the big question – what are the actual odds of getting a conviction overturned? Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the case specifics. But in general, the chances are not great.

One study found that only around 4-5% of state convictions end up getting overturned. Federal cases have a higher rate at around 11-15%, but that’s still fairly low. Appeals are a long shot.

Cases with solid new DNA evidence prove innocence about 15-20% of the time. But less than 10% of cases have testable DNA available. Most appeals rely on procedural issues, which are much harder to win.

There are a lot of hurdles. You have to show substantial legal errors were made or present compelling evidence. Minor technicalities usually won’t fly. And courts tend to give deference to the original verdict. It’s an uphill battle.

How does the appeals process work?

If you do want to try appealing your conviction, here are the basics of how it works:

  1. File a Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the conviction.
  2. Obtain trial transcripts and court documents.
  3. Research appealable legal issues in the case.
  4. Write and file an Appeals Brief detailing the legal arguments.
  5. The state writes an opposition brief responding to your claims.
  6. Oral arguments may be heard by an Appeals Court panel.
  7. Judges decide whether to overturn the conviction or uphold it.

This process can take anywhere from a year to several years depending on the courts. Most appeals fail at the first Appeals Court level, but cases can sometimes be escalated up through the court system.

What should you do?

Here are some tips if you’re thinking about appealing your conviction:

  • Talk to a criminal appeals lawyer to understand your options.
  • Be realistic – overturning convictions is very challenging.
  • Focus appeals on significant legal errors or strong new evidence.
  • Stick to deadlines and court procedures.
  • Manage expectations, but don’t give up hope.

And remember – you’re not alone in this fight. There are organizations like the Innocence Project and pro bono legal groups who may be able to help. Reach out and see what support exists.

I know this is a lot of information to process. The appeals system is complicated and daunting. But you’re doing the right thing by educating yourself. Hopefully this gives you a better sense of the realistic chances and process involved. Wishing you the very best as you move forward.

You’ve got this!


Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States
DNA Exonerations in the United States
Innocence Project

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