Common Pleadings in California Appeals Cases

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2019 at 8:45 am    

If you lose your criminal trial, you may still be able to avoid a conviction if you successfully appeal the judgment of the court that heard your case. California appeals cases are heard by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court if the offense was a misdemeanor, or the California Court of Appeals if the crime was a felony. These appeals courts will not give you a new trial. Instead, they will hear your defense lawyer’s arguments about legal errors that wrongfully resulted in your conviction or affected your sentencing.

If your appeal is successful, the court may cancel the judgment of the trial court, and then order the trial court to give you a new trial or sentencing hearing that follows the appeals court’s instructions. If you believe you were wrongly convicted of a crime, call a Los Angeles criminal appeals lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816, or reach out online to schedule a free consultation of your case.

What Can My Lawyer Argue on Appeal?

Within 30 to 60 days of the judgment, you’ll need to send in the “Notice of Appeal.” During this timeframe, your lawyer will need to carefully review what happened at trial and determine what arguments to make. After all, it is the party who appeals who bears the burden of proving that the trial court made a mistake.

It is important to note, however, that there are other types of post-conviction relief that do not have as stringent of the deadlines as the traditional direct appeals. For questions regarding these options, contact an appeals attorney from Spolin Law P.C. right away.

There are many different paths to a successful appeal in a criminal case. Below are some of the more common issues that defense lawyers may plead in their briefs:

Wrongly Admitting or Rejecting Evidence

California has complex rules that govern what kind of evidence may be introduced at trial. In criminal cases, the defense and the prosecution often argue over whether a piece of evidence should be shown to the jury or not. Hearsay, unduly prejudicial evidence, and any fruits of an unlawful search or seizure usually cannot be introduced into a trial. If you believe a judge misapplied the rules of evidence, you can appeal on this basis.

Improper Jury Instructions

After the prosecution and the defense have presented their cases, the jury must decide whether the defendant is guilty. Before sending the jury away to deliberate, the judge will give them instructions on how to consider the evidence they’ve received during the trial. Improper instructions – which give the jury a confusing definition of the offense, or that would encourage the improper consideration of certain pieces of evidence – may form the basis of an appeal.

Abuse of Discretion and Other Issues at Sentencing

Sentencing hearings are opportunities for the defense and the prosecution to present evidence and make arguments. When the judge improperly applies the law at a sentencing hearing, or abuses their discretion in handing down an especially harsh sentence, the defense may appeal. If successful, this appeal may result in a more lenient sentence, but it will not alter your guilty verdict.

The above issues that may be raised at appeal are part of the category of prejudicial error. It means that the appeal identifies a mistake of law which substantially harmed you at trial or during sentencing. If an error was made, but didn’t meaningfully affect the outcome of the trial, this error may not form the basis of a valid appeal.

Are There Alternatives to the Appeals Process?

Sometimes, exculpatory evidence emerges after the trial is said and done. However, appeals courts are not allowed to consider new evidence when hearing an appeal – their decision is made exclusively on the record of the initial trial. Fortunately, there is an alternative to filing an appeal in this kind of scenario. Your lawyer may request a higher court to issue a writ, such as a habeas corpus, which is a challenge of illegal incarceration. For example, if another suspect confesses to the crime after you’ve been convicted, your lawyer may get you freed by filing a writ of habeas corpus.

Call Spolin Law P.C. for Help With Your Criminal Appeals Case

At Spolin Law P.C., we believe that each and every one of our clients deserves an aggressive and thorough defense strategy. When a trial court makes erroneous rulings that affect our clients’ rights, we will not hesitate to file an appeal. If you or a loved one has been wrongly convicted of a crime, contact us today at (310) 424-5816 to schedule a free and case evaluation.