How to Win a Criminal Appeal & Overturn Your Conviction

Filing and winning an appeal in court can give you your freedom. But it is a complicated process, best handled by an experienced and highly skilled attorney with a history of success in appeal cases.

Contact criminal appeals attorney Aaron Spolin at Spolin Law P.C. to discuss when you may file an appeal, the criminal appeals process, and how to win.

  1. How to Win an Appeal
  2. Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Release From Imprisonment
  4. Effective Arguments in Overturning Convictions
  5. The Appeal Process
  6. The Writ Process
  7. The Importance of an Appeals Lawyer
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Aaron Spolin

Spolin Law P.C. is led by award-winning criminal appeals attorney and former prosecutor Aaron Spolin. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of criminal cases.


How to Win an Appeal

Winning your appeal requires in-depth knowledge of the law and the criminal appeals process as well as skillful representation by legal counsel. Spolin Law P.C. has years of experience and considerable success in criminal appeals and writs.

We know what winning a criminal appeal means for you and your family. A successful appeal requires several steps to be taken as soon as possible, including:

Review the Case for Errors

Once you contact us, we will immediately take steps to get copies of the trial and pretrial hearing transcripts. We need to scrutinize your entire case file from start to finish.

Through an in-depth review, our hope is to find any mistakes made by your previous lawyer, any improper statements made by the judge or prosecutor, and any legal errors. Certain factual and legal mistakes violate your rights and provide a strong argument on appeal.

Develop an Argument Based on Federal Law

Thousands of arguments can be made on appeal. These arguments are based on federal law, court procedure, and U.S. constitutional law.

Establish Your Full or Partial Innocence

An appeal is not simply a legal or factual argument. It must balance legal elements and an emotional plea to the judge.

When you are innocent, we strive to prove your innocence. We may argue that this not just a technical issue but a failing of the legal system that is harming an innocent person.

Seek Your Release From Imprisonment

In some circumstances, we may be able to argue for your release from prison while your appeal is pending.

Spolin Law P.C. takes these steps and more to fight for a successful appeal in court. To learn more about the appeal process, contact Aaron Spolin and his team at (866) 716-2805. We offer free initial consultations.

  1. How to Win an Appeal
  2. Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Release From Imprisonment
  4. Effective Arguments in Overturning Convictions
  5. The Appeal Process
  6. The Writ Process
  7. The Importance of an Appeals Lawyer

Federal Appeal Deadlines

When you are wrongfully convicted in federal court, you need to talk to a federal appellate lawyer as soon as possible.

The deadline to file a notice of appeal comes quickly. You need to take immediate action to file a notice of appeal. This lets you establish an argument as to why your conviction should be overturned or why you should be resentenced.

14 Days for a Federal Appeal

The deadline to file an appeal in a federal criminal case is 14 days after the entry of the judgment or 14 days after the U.S. government files a notice of appeal. The 14-day deadline can be extended based on good cause or excusable neglect. The district court judge can extend the deadline to file a notice of appeal up to 30 days from the expiration of the initial deadline.

Certain post-conviction motions must be decided before the clock to file a notice of appeal runs. A trial lawyer may first file a motion for judgment of acquittal, motion for arrest of judgment, or motion for a new trial. These motions must be made within 14 days of the conviction. Or, within the 14 days after a conviction, we may file a petition for a rehearing or rehearing en banc, though a rehearing in federal court is rare.

If the motion or petition for rehearing is not decided in your favor, then we will file a notice of appeal.

  1. How to Win an Appeal
  2. Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Release From Imprisonment
  4. Effective Arguments in Overturning Convictions
  5. The Appeal Process
  6. The Writ Process
  7. The Importance of an Appeals Lawyer

Release From Imprisonment

The appeal process takes time. We will fight for you to be released from prison while your appeal is pending. We may file a motion seeking your release on a bail bond.

Courts review various factors to determine if bail is appropriate in an appeal. These include the seriousness of the crime, the length of your sentence, your criminal history, your ties to the community, your ability and likelihood to travel and become a fugitive, and the risk to public safety.

You do not have a constitutional right to be released on bail. However, this is something we can and will pursue. We will strive to meet the burden of proving bail is appropriate.

  1. How to Win an Appeal
  2. Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Release From Imprisonment
  4. Effective Arguments in Overturning Convictions
  5. The Appeal Process
  6. The Writ Process
  7. The Importance of an Appeals Lawyer

Effective Arguments to Overturn Convictions

We know of thousands of potential arguments to support criminal appeals, including:

Ineffective assistance of counsel

You can argue ineffective assistance of counsel if your defense attorney did such a bad job that it impacted the outcome of your case. You must prove your attorney’s conduct was unreasonable and had your attorney provided effective counsel, then you would not have been convicted.

Improperly Admitted of Character Evidence

Both the California and Federal Rules of Evidence have rules regarding when and how lawyers can submit character evidence. Evidence of a person’s character is not admissible to prove that on a certain occasion, that person acted in accordance with their character or trait. This evidence must fit within a certain exception to be admitted.

Improper Shift of the Burden of Proof by the Prosecutor

During a criminal trial, the prosecutor has the burden of proving you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor cannot shift that burden by suggesting you must prove your innocence.

Improper Jury Instructions

At the end of a trial, the judge reads the jury a set of instructions. These instructions can be modeled on pattern jury instructions, but are up to the judge and the lawyers. If the instructions contain a legal error, such as a missing or improperly included instruction, then we can argue for a conviction to be reversed.

Failure of Judge to Provide Required Jury Instructions

Certain jury instructions are appropriate, some are necessary, and others are required by law. If the judge leaves out required jury instructions, we will appeal the conviction.

Witness Was Improperly Excluded

You are legally entitled to present relevant evidence during your trial, which includes witnesses’ testimony. We will appeal if a judge improperly excluded a witness from the trial who could have testified on your behalf.

Cross Examination Was Improperly Limited

The U.S. Constitution guarantees your right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. If the judge restricted your right to cross-examination, we would ask for the conviction to be overturned.

Defendant’s Statement or Confession Was Improperly Admitted

Both your constitutional rights and rules of evidence prevent courts from admitting many out-of-court statements, including many confessions made by a defendant. If a statement you made was admitted to the court, we might appeal on the basis of hearsay or other legal error.

Denied Your Choice of Attorney

You are entitled to have legal counsel during the criminal process, and you are entitled to choose an attorney. When you can hire your own lawyer, you can choose who represents you as long as they are admitted to practice in that court. If you cannot afford to retain a private attorney, the court must appoint a public defender.

Denied Right of Self Representation

It is typically not wise for a criminal defendant to represent themselves. However, the law technically gives you the right to do so. If you are competent, the court must allow you to represent yourself. If the judge inappropriately denied your right to represent yourself, then this may be grounds for appeal.

Suppression Motion Was Improperly Denied

Any evidence obtained through or indirectly from illegal means is not admissible in court. For example, evidence obtained through an unreasonable and illegal search and seizure by the police. If the judge fails to exclude illegally obtained evidence, we will ask the conviction to be overturned.

Lack of Probable Cause

The police must have probable cause to obtain a search or arrest warrant. Probable cause is a low threshold. There simply must be enough facts to support a likelihood you committed an offense. But if the police act without probable cause, any resulting evidence is unlawful and inadmissible.

Lack of Sufficient Evidence for a Conviction

The prosecution’s burden is to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden of proof in the court system. There must be no reasonable doubt remaining about whether or not you committed the offense. If we find the prosecution did not present enough evidence to reach this burden, we will ask for the conviction to be reversed.

Faulty Line-Up Was Improperly Admitted

In order for the results of a police line up to be admissible in court, it must be performed in a certain manner. Any amount of suggestion can lead to a false identification of a suspect. We may challenge a line up that led to your being charged with the crime.

Defendant’s Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination Was Violated

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you from being compelled to be a witness against yourself during police interrogations and at trial. As a criminal defendant, you cannot be forced to testify at trial. Also, this constitutional right requires the police to adhere to certain procedures when questioning suspects.

Violation of Double Jeopardy

You have the constitutional right not to be tried for the same crime twice. If a jury acquits you of a crime, the prosecutor cannot try to convict you of that crime again.

Violation of Right to Speedy Trial: The

U.S. and California Constitutions grant you the right to a speedy trial. Once you are arrested or charged with a crime, the criminal court process must move at a reasonable pace. There cannot be any unnecessary delays in having a trial.

Case Was Incorrectly Joined With Co-Defendant

If you and one or more other persons are charged with a crime together, then you may be tried jointly. However, in some circumstances, a joint trial is not appropriate, and you and your co-defendants should have separate trials. We will appeal your case if being tried with one or more co-defendants prejudiced the jury against you or led to a different legal error in your case.

Jury Trial Was Improperly Denied

You have a constitutional right to a jury trial when charged with a crime. If the judge improperly conducts a bench trial, we will appeal. Also, we will appeal if the judge decides any material questions of fact during your case that should have gone to the jury.

Mental Incompetence

A defendant must be mentally competent to stand trial. If a defendant has a mental disorder or developmental disability that makes them unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings, then they are not mentally competent and cannot be tried for a crime.

Overly Broad Statute Defining Offense Is Unconstitutional

Crimes are defined by state and federal statutes. These statutes must be clear and reasonably limited in the conduct they prohibit. Overly broad and vague statutes are unconstitutional.

Violation of Defendant’s First Amendment Rights

We will ask for your conviction to be overturned if the statute describing the crime violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Improperly Closed Courtroom

You have a constitutional right to a public trial. Typically, criminal proceedings are open to the public unless there is a specific need to exclude the public.

Someone Improperly Interfered with Jury Deliberations

Once the jury is given their instructions at the conclusion of the trial, they are left to deliberate in private. No other party is allowed to communicate with the jury during deliberations, with the exception of the judge who can communicate with the jury in open court after giving the lawyers notice. Any interference with deliberations is the basis for appeal.

Defendant’s Innocence

The appellate court does not review new evidence on appeal. However, if you are actually innocent, there are several arguments we can use to fight for the conviction to be overturned. We may argue evidence of your innocence was improperly excluded or the prosecutor did not provide us with exculpatory innocence. We may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in order to utilize new evidence supporting your actual innocence.

Sentencing Mistake

California and federal judges are limited by law to the sentence they can impose. If the sentence you receive is overly harsh and outside of the bounds of California or federal sentencing laws, we ill fight to have your sentence overturned and revised.

Violation of the Statute of Limitations

Different crimes have different statutes of limitation under California and federal law. We will calculate the appropriate statute of limitations, and if we find the charges we brought too late, we will appeal. The trial court should dismiss charges that violate the statute of limitations.

Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A court must have subject matter jurisdiction in order to make decisions about a certain legal matter. Some courts have general jurisdiction and can hear most types of cases. Other courts have jurisdiction over specific types of matters only. We will review the court’s jurisdiction over your case, and if it lacked subject matter jurisdiction, we would file an appeal.

Change of Venue Motion Was Improperly Denied

The court venue refers to the specific location of the court where your case will be heard. Typically, a case is tried in the county or federal district where the crime allegedly took place. We can appeal if the case was filed in the improper venue. Changing venue may be appropriate if holding a jury trial in a certain location is unlikely to lead to unfair prejudice. We could file an appeal if your trial attorney filed a motion to change the venue that was improperly denied.

Defendant Was Improperly Restrained in Front of Jury

Physical restraints and prison outfits can prejudice the jury against you. Unless the judge orders that restraints are necessary, you should not be restrained in front of the jury. We can appeal if you were inappropriately restrained in front of the jury or if the judge abused their discretion in ordering you to be restrained.

Jury Allowed to See Shackles, Handcuffs, or Jail Clothes of Defendant

Defendants are typically transported to a courthouse in jail or prison-issued clothing and handcuffs or shackles. You should be given an opportunity to change before you enter the courtroom, and the jury sees you. The jury should not be allowed or enabled to see you in the prison clothing and restraints.

Defendant’s Exclusion from the Courtroom During Parts of the Trial

You are entitled to be present during criminal court proceedings against you unless there is a specific reason to exclude you from certain portions of the proceedings. For example, you can be removed from the courtroom for disorderly conduct. However, if you were improperly excluded by the judge, we will appeal.

Judge’s Communications With Jury Without Defense Counsel Present

Judges are not allowed to improperly influence juries, which is why judges are not entitled to speak with the jury without the defense attorney and prosecutor present. We will appeal if we discover the judge spoke with one or more jurors improperly.

Judge’s Improper Admission of Confession Following Lack of Miranda Warnings

A defendant’s confession can only be admitted at trial if it was obtained after the police gave read them the Miranda Rights. The U.S. Supreme Court determined the Miranda warnings are necessary to protect a person’s constitutional right against self-incrimination. We will appeal if the judge admitted a confession that was obtained without the police informing you of your Miranda rights.

Judge’s Improper Ruling on Sufficiency of Warrant Motion:

A warrant is a legal document signed by a judge giving the police the right to search a particular place and look for and seize specific property or to arrest a specific person. To obtain a warrant, the police must have probable cause. If the judge improperly decided a motion based on an invalid warrant, we will appeal.

Judge’s Improper Ruling on Identification Procedures Motion

If the police did not follow proper procedures when using identification techniques, like line ups, this may violate your due process rights and provide a basis for an appeal.

Denied Defense Counsel at Critical Stages of Court Proceedings

If you are denied your right to have an attorney at any stage of the criminal court process, this is a violation of your constitutional rights.

Trial Attorney’s Conflict of Interest

Your trial attorney, whether a public defender or private defense counsel, owes you a duty of loyalty and professional care. They cannot represent effectively if they have a conflict of interest. If we discover your trial lawyer had a conflict of interest during your case, we will appeal on the basis of ineffective counsel.

Undue Prejudiced by Pretrial or Trial Publicity

You have the right to have an impartial jury decide your case. However, pre-trial media coverage in the county or federal district may have tainted the jury pool. When prospective jurors are likely prejudiced against you, then the judge should approve a motion for a change of venue. If we believe you were convicted by a jury that was unfairly prejudiced against you, then we will appeal.

Improper Challenge of a Juror Due to Juror’s Race/Gender/etc. by Prosecutor

Before trial, there is the voir dire process. This is the process through which the lawyers choose a jury from a pool of individuals. Both the defense counsel and prosecutor are given a number of peremptory challenges through which they can dismiss a potential juror without giving a reason. However, the defendant counsel can challenge a dismissal if it is based on a potential juror’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or other characteristics. We also can use this issue as a basis for appeal.

Improper Ruling on Expert Testimony

For experts to testify at trial, they must meet certain requirements. If the judge allows expert testimony from someone who does not satisfy the prerequisites or denies an expert for the defense who does satisfy them, then we will appeal.

Improper or Improperly Filled Out Jury Verdict Form

The judge gives the jury a verdict form, which the jurors use to give the court their verdict. This form must meet certain requirements. If the form does not meet the requirements when given to the jury or the jury improperly fills it out, this may be a basis for appeal.

“Golden Rule” Violation by Prosecutor

The “Golden Rule” is a type of argument in which the prosecution asks the jurors to place themselves in the victim’s shoes when determining whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. It is a highly prejudicial argument. It asks the jury to focus on their emotions rather than decide the case on objective facts. Because of this, Golden Rule arguments are not allowed. We will appeal if the prosecutor used this type of strategy.

Failure to Disclose Exculpatory Evidence by Prosecutor

Your constitutional rights require prosecutors to disclose any potentially exculpatory evidence. This is evidence that tends to prove you are not guilty. If we discover the prosecutor failed to hand over evidence, we will ask for the conviction to be overturned.

Failure to Disclose Relevant Information About a Witness by Prosecutor

Prosecutors must disclose relevant information about witnesses, including any leniency offered by the prosecutor’s office or material aspects of that witness’s character. This is considered a type of exculpatory evidence.


The Appeal Process

Appealing a criminal conviction or sentence in the courts requires:

  • File a Notice of Appeal

    You must file a document that states your intention to file an appeal within the time limit prescribed by law.

  • Obtain a Trial Transcript

    Once you file a notice of appeal, the court reporter will prepare a full transcript of your case.

  • Submitt the Opening Brief

    The court dictates the briefing schedule. Your appeals lawyers have 45 days to file an opening brief. This describes what happened at trial, why the decision was wrong, and why the court should reverse the trial court’s decision. This brief informs the appellate court of the material legal mistake that occurred at trial.

  • The Respondent’s Brief

    The government also has the right to file a brief in response to your appeal. This defends against your attorney’s arguments regarding the alleged legal mistake.

  • Reply to the Brief

    The court may give you a brief period of time to respond to the government’s brief.

  • Prepare Oral Arguments

    Not all appeals go through oral arguments. Either party can request oral arguments or the appellate court, a panel of three judges can require them. During oral arguments, we will not reiterate many facts. Instead, we will focus on proving what we claimed in brief and answering the judges’ questions.

  • The Appeal Decision

    Following the written briefs and oral arguments, if they are required, the panel of judges will deliberate and hand down their decision. The appellate court can affirm the trial court’s decision, reverse the trial court’s decision, or remand your case back to the trial court.

  • Request a Rehearing

    If the appellate court does not decide in your favor, we will request a rehearing from that court within 14 days of the decision. This is necessary if we believe the court’s decision was based on an issue not presented in our briefs, or the court’s opinion leaves out a material fact or issue.

  • Request a Review

    We will file a petition for review if your case presents a novel issue in the law, or there is a constitutional violation or error. This is an important step if we wish to take your case to the Supreme Court or file a petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.

  1. How to Win an Appeal
  2. Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Release From Imprisonment
  4. Effective Arguments in Overturning Convictions
  5. The Appeal Process
  6. The Writ Process
  7. The Importance of an Appeals Lawyer

The Writ Process

Separate from, but similar to appeals is the writ process. We may file a petition for a certain writ if there is an issue in your case that we cannot directly address upon appeal.

A writ is a command by a court to another party. Attorneys do not write or file writs. Your lawyers may file a petition for a writ, which means we ask the court to hand down a writ to a court, government agency, or official.

Common writs include:

  • Writ of Habeas Corpus. This writ is used to challenge a person’s detention by a government agency.
  • Writ of Mandamus. This writ tells a court or public official to perform a certain act.
  • Writ of Prohibition. This writ tells court or public official not to perform a certain act.
  • Writ of Quo Warranto. This writ allows states to challenge a person’s right to hold public office.
  • Writ of Error Coram Nobis. This writ allows a court to correct a material mistake that was not part of the trial record.
  • Writ of Certiorari. This writ enables certain appellate courts to hear appeals from lower courts. When we wish the Supreme Court to hear your case, we file this type of writ.
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Spolin Law P.C. is one of the leading criminal appeals firms in the country. It’s lead attorney is ranked in the top 1%.

  1. How to Win an Appeal
  2. Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Release From Imprisonment
  4. Effective Arguments in Overturning Convictions
  5. The Appeal Process
  6. The Writ Process
  7. The Importance of an Appeals Lawyer

The Importance of an Appeals Lawyer

When you wish to appeal a conviction or sentence, you will not use the same defense attorney who handled your trial. You need to retain a lawyer who is highly experienced and successful in regard to the criminal appeals process, like Aaron Spolin of Spolin Law P.C.

By working with a seasoned appeals lawyer, you have someone who will:

  • Analyze the trial record. Hiring an appeals attorney means you have fresh eyes on your case. A lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. will scrutinize the entire trial record.
  • Discover new arguments. Your attorney will review the facts and legal arguments presented at trial. Successful appeals attorneys often can uncover several arguments for appeal. At Spolin Law P.C., we are confident we can find arguments others have missed.
  • Fight to win. Our team at Spolin Law P.C. takes the criminal appeals process very seriously. We are in it to win, and we have achieved outstanding results for many of our clients.

Aaron Spolin is a former prosecutor and award-winning appeals attorney. He and his firm are highly ranked by The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys.

To learn more about how Spolin Law P.C. can help you through the appeals process, call (866) 716-2805 to schedule a free consultation.