Reasons To Appeal A Criminal Case
When a criminal case ends with a conviction, the defendant may consider filing an appeal. During this post-trial stage, the defendant’s lawyer may counsel them on whether they have grounds for an appeal. An appeal is often the first step for the wrongly convicted, but there are also other reasons to appeal a criminal case. If you or a loved one was convicted of a crime and would like to know more about the appeals process, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyer Chuck Franklin directly of Chuck Franklin Law at (480) 545-0700 for a free consultation.
Types of Criminal Appeals in Arizona
There are three main categories of criminal appeals in Arizona, as identified by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The options available to each appellant (defendant who was found guilty) will depend on whether the case ended in a jury conviction or a plea agreement.
A direct appeal is an official request for a higher court to review the case and verdict for possible legal mistakes that could have influenced the result of the case. Only defendants who were convicted by a jury are entitled to file a direct appeal.
Post-Conviction Relief Petition (PCR)
Both jury and plea agreement convictions may be appealed through a post-conviction relief petition. According to the Arizona Judicial Branch, a post-conviction relief petition can be a request that the court vacates or modifies a conviction, or that they reduce or modify the terms of the sentencing.
Post-conviction relief is the only option available to defendants who were found guilty through a plea agreement. In order for the petition to be accepted, the court must rule that the defendant has a “colorable claim” that some type of error or mishandling influenced the outcome of the case. Some common examples of colorable claims include:
- Ineffective assistance of counsel, meaning the defendant’s lawyer failed them in some way.
- Illegal sentencing
- New evidence that was not discovered during the trial
- Relevant changes to the law that could affect the conviction or sentence
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
A Petition for Write of Habeas Corpus is a federal appeal that may only be filed after all other types of appeals have been attempted. The conditions for filing a habeas petition are set by the Federal Rules of Procedure.
When Might a Defendant Have Grounds for an Appeal?
Each criminal case is unique and the potential reasons for an appeal will depend on the circumstances of the case. However, there are several common reasons to appeal a criminal case:
- Illegal or false arrest – Violations of the defendant’s rights during the arrest could provide grounds for an appeal, such as an arrest without probable cause or the failure to read Miranda rights.
- Juror misconduct – If a juror acted unethically, such as by inappropriately communicating with witnesses and attorneys, this could be argued as an unfair influence on the outcome of the case.
- Ineffective assistance by legal counsel – An appeal can be filed if the defendant believes their legal counsel failed to represent them effectively, such as by failing to submit a key piece of evidence or to motion for a mistrial when justified.
- Improperly admitted or excluded evidence – Sometimes judges make legal errors regarding evidence, such as excluding valid evidence or wrongly allowing improper evidence to be admitted.
- Jury instruction errors – If the judge provided incorrect instructions to the jury, such as failing to provide important information regarding how relevant laws should be considered, this could be grounds for an appeal.
- Lack of sufficient evidence to justify the guilty verdict – In some cases, an appellant and their legal defense may argue that the evidence presented was not sufficient to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the defendant and their legal counsel manage to prove that these or other legal errors influenced the outcome of the case, the appellate court may grant the appeal. Those who are unsure if they may have grounds for appeal can learn more by discussing their case with Chuck Franklin of Chuck Franklin Law directly today.
How Does the Appeals Court Process Work?
Individuals who qualify for direct appeals may start the appeals process by filing a notice of appeal. The appellant or their legal counsel may file a notice of appeal after the lower court judgment has been officially recorded, and the notice must be filed within 20 days of sentencing. In Arizona, a typical direct appeal for a criminal case will go through the following steps:
- The appellant has the right to request transcripts and other court records when the appeal is filed.
- The defense must file an appeals court brief detailing the legal reasons requesting a reversal of the court’s decision.
- Additionally, the prosecution will file a written belief explaining why they believe the conviction should be upheld.
- A copy of the defense’s opening brief is provided to the Attorney General and the office assigns an Assistant Attorney General (AAG) to the appeals case.
- The AAG analyzes the defense’s arguments and the official court records from the case before submitting an Answering Brief.
- The defense has the option to file a Reply Brief.
- A three-judge panel for the Court of Appeals (or a five-judge panel from the Arizona Supreme Court for death penalty cases) reviews the briefs from both sides.
- The court has the option to schedule an Oral Argument. In most cases, the defendant does not attend this argument. Any victims from the case are allowed to attend, but may not participate.
- The court will issue an official written decision between 1-12 months later.
Consider Contacting a Criminal Lawyer for More Information on the Arizona Criminal Appeals Process
A conviction in a criminal case is not always the end of the case. Wrongly convicted defendants may still have avenues for justice through the appeals process. Filing an appeal is a complicated legal process and having legal guidance may make the process easier. A criminal defense attorney with appeals experience can investigate for reasons to appeal a criminal case and help convicted defendants understand their legal options.
If you or a loved one has recently been convicted of a criminal offense, the experienced criminal defense attorney Chuck Franklin of Chuck Franklin Law is available to help you better understand your case. Learn more about the appeals process in Arizona by calling Chuck Franklin directly at (480) 545-0700 for a free consultation.
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