PAT FORD APPEALS
Pat Ford is a criminal defense lawyer in San Diego who represents convicted defendants on appeal in the state and federal courts. He’s won various honors including “Appellate Lawyer of the Year” from the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association for his work in getting a death sentence reversed in the California Supreme Court in 2008. In 2014, he appeared in the U.S. Supreme Court, along with Stanford Professor Jeff Fisher in a case that expanded the privacy rights of cell phone users and all citizens in the modern age. In 2015, he again received the Appellate Lawyer of the Year award from two organizations–the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association and Appellate Defenders, Inc.( the “Paul Bell Award”). He also writes articles regularly for criminal defense organizations and lectures on criminal law-related topics. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown in 1980 and his law degree from the University of San Diego in 1983.
Pat Ford is one of the foremost authorities on the criminal law in the state of California. Since 1984, he has written and edited the California Criminal Law Reporter–a primary research tool used by judges and lawyers across the state.
“I feel blessed that Pat Ford was my lawyer.”
“Pat fought my case for 12 years until we won. He never gave up.”
“Pat proved I was innocent.”
“He’s a great lawyer and I owe him everything.”
“He took on the whole police department.”
“Patrick has a rare combination of heart and mind.”
WHY CHOOSE US?
Choosing the right criminal appeals attorney in San Diego can be difficult. Having the right attorney representing you in your criminal appeal can mean the difference between winning and losing your case.
EXCELLENT SERVICE & COMMUNICATION
We have successfully represented clients on appeal and in post-conviction proceedings. We know how devastating a criminal conviction can be for defendants and their loved ones. We provide clients with knowledgeable and competent legal representation during every stage of the appeals process.
Jeff Fisher and Pat Ford leaving the United States Supreme Court after oral arguments in Riley v. California.
Clifton Maxwel & Pat Ford leaving Soledad State Prison after 12 years in the state & federal appeals courts.
Pat Ford greets Mike Hansen upon his release from Donovan State Prison following a commutation from Governor Brown.
TYPES OF APPEALS
Have you been convicted of a criminal offense in California? If so, having a conviction on your record can adversely affect virtually every aspect of your life, even after you serve your sentence. By hiring a skilled criminal appeals lawyer, you can file a direct appeal or petition for post-conviction relief.
Servicing All of California
Pat Ford Appeals represents defendants convicted of crimes in the San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento Metro Area, and Fresno areas on appeal or in post-conviction proceedings.
Pat Ford has successfully represented clients in cases involving misdemeanor appeals, felony appeals, state writ of habeas corpus petitions, federal writ of habeas corpus petitions, post-conviction petitions, commutation applications, and SB 1437 petitions and AB 2942 petitions. A criminal case doesn’t have to end with a conviction and we are committed to fighting for our clients’ rights and best interests throughout the appeals process.
A criminal appeal is a request for a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court and this type of appeal is typically filed in cases where the trial court did not rule in the defendant’s favor. By filing a criminal appeal, you can ask an appellate court to review a criminal conviction or a sentence handed down by a superior court, which is the lowest level of courts in the state. The decisions of appellate courts are binding on the California superior courts.
There are six district courts that handle appeals in California, known as appellate courts:
- The First District Court of Appeal is located in San Francisco and has jurisdiction over Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma Counties.
- The Second District Court of Appeal has its primary courthouse in Los Angeles, which handles appeals from Los Angeles County, and its secondary courthouse in Ventura, which handles appeals from San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura Counties.
- The Third District Court of Appeal is located in Sacramento and has jurisdiction over Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo, and Yuba Counties.
- The Fourth District Court of Appeal has three geographical divisions. Division One is located in San Diego and has jurisdiction over Imperial and San Diego Counties. Division Two is located in Riverside and has jurisdiction over Inyo, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Division Three is located in Santa Ana and has jurisdiction over Orange County.
- The Fifth District Court of Appeal is located in Fresno and has jurisdiction over Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne Counties.
- The Sixth District Court of Appeal is located in San Jose and has jurisdiction over Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz Counties.
You can file an appeal if you believe you were wrongfully convicted of a criminal offense or feel that justice was not properly carried out in your criminal case. By filing an appeal, you may be able to get a guilty verdict overturned, get a new trial or get your sentence reduced.
California and federal law provide many different ways in which defendants can appeal a conviction. Our California criminal appeals lawyers at Pat Ford Appeals have represented thousands of clients in criminal appeals cases and we will ensure that you know what options for appeal are available to you and which option offers the best chance of success.
A misdemeanor appeal is a criminal appeal filed by a convicted defendant who was prosecuted for a misdemeanor crime, or a crime punishable by no more than one year in county jail. In California, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court hears misdemeanor criminal appeals.
A felony appeal is a criminal appeal filed by a convicted defendant who was prosecuted for a felony offense, such as murder, rape, arson or robbery. In California, felony criminal appeals are heard by the California Court of Appeal.
If you are pursuing an appeal based on a conviction for a federal crime, your appeal would be filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and then, if necessary, the Supreme Court of the United States.
Under California law, you cannot appeal a criminal conviction just because you aren’t happy with the court’s ruling. However, if the trial court made a legal error that affected the outcome of your case, you may have grounds for appeal.
A Notice of Appeal is the form you file to notify the trial court that decided your case that you are appealing the court’s decision. This is the first step in the criminal appeals process.
You will file your Notice of Appeal in the court where your conviction occurred.
If you are filing a misdemeanor appeal, you must do so within 30 days of the trial court’s ruling. If you are filing a felony appeal, you must do so within 60 days of the ruling.
With certain rare exceptions, late Notices of Appeal are not accepted by the court. If you miss the deadline to file an appeal in your case, you will most likely forfeit your right to appellate review.
Generally, when you plead guilty or “no contest” to criminal charges, you waive appellate review except for issues related to the legality of the plea itself or the jurisdiction of the trial court over the case. You can appeal a guilty or “no contest” plea based on improper sentencing or on violations of the Fourth Amendment involving illegal search and seizures, though this can make the appeals process more challenging.
A criminal appeal is not a new trial. The appellate court will not consider new evidence, nor will it hear testimony from witnesses during the appeal. Instead, the court will review the transcript of the trial court’s proceedings, which means it will only consider the statements, testimony and evidence reviewed during the original trial in determining whether the trial court’s conviction or sentencing decisions were reached in error.
Errors at the trial court level that may be grounds for an appeal include, but are not limited to, the following:
- An error on the part of the judge (i.e. improperly admitting or failing to exclude evidence)
- Juror misconduct (i.e. jurors failing to follow the law or inappropriately influencing other jurors)
- Prosecutorial misconduct (i.e. referring to inadmissible evidence in front of jurors)
- Ineffective assistance of counsel (i.e. the defense attorney performing so ineffectively that the defendant’s constitutional right to assistance of counsel was violated)
In some cases, so long as you are not considered a flight risk or a danger to the community, the judge may allow you to be released on bail while awaiting the decision of the appellate court.
The length of time it takes for an appellate court to review a trial court’s decision in a criminal case and rule on an appeal varies, but generally speaking, a misdemeanor appeal can take months, while a felony appeal can take years.
If the appellate court finds that an error occurred and that the error was prejudicial, meaning it affected the outcome of your case, the court may reverse the trial court’s decision and overturn the conviction, or send your case back to the trial court for a new trial.
The burden of proof in an appeal lies with the defendant, which means, if you appeal a conviction, it is you who will have to prove that the court made a legal error and the error changed the outcome of your case. The trial court does not have to prove that its initial decision was the right decision, which is the reason appeals can be so difficult to win. Being able to prove that an error occurred and that the error was prejudicial requires the skill and expertise of a practiced California criminal appeals lawyer.
The odds of getting your conviction overturned or your sentence reduced on appeal are not great. That is why you need a reputable criminal appeals lawyer on your side who knows the law and can help you navigate the appeals process. With a knowledgeable attorney representing your case, you have the best chance of succeeding in your appeal.
If your misdemeanor or felony appeal is unsuccessful at the appellate level, meaning the appeals court affirmed the decision of the trial court, you can request a review by the Supreme Court of California, which is the highest court in the state. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review any decision made by an appellate court, but generally only accepts cases involving issues that are relevant statewide. Both the appellate courts and trial courts are bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court of California.
A state writ of habeas corpus is a court order requesting that the custodian of an imprisoned individual bring the individual before the court in order to determine whether his or her imprisonment is lawful.
A petition for a state writ of habeas corpus can be used to challenge a criminal conviction and/or sentence for a state crime in California, or to challenge the conditions under which a prisoner is serving his or her sentence.
A state writ of habeas corpus petition is considered an “extraordinary remedy” and is typically used as a last resort among prisoners who have already tried and failed to overturn their conviction on appeal.
If a serious legal error occurred during your trial and the error changed the outcome of your case, but the deadline for filing a criminal appeal has passed, you may be able to file a petition for habeas corpus relief to challenge the conviction. You can also file a habeas corpus petition if you believe you are being imprisoned in violation of the law or your constitutional rights. The following are some common grounds for writ of habeas corpus petitions:
- Introduction of new evidence that points to your innocence
- Changes in the law
- Incompetency during trial
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
- Conviction under unconstitutional law
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- No jurisdiction
- Unconstitutional conditions of confinement
Inmates serving time in California state prison or federal prison who believe that their arrest, trial or sentence violated their constitutional rights in some way can file a petition at the federal level requesting habeas corpus relief and challenging their incarceration.
A federal writ of habeas corpus petition may be an option for inmates serving a state prison sentence for a state crime who have already filed a state writ of habeas corpus petition that was unsuccessful.
The purpose of a federal writ of habeas corpus petition is to obtain a specific legal remedy from the court, usually a release from prison, a change in the conditions of an inmate’s imprisonment, or relief from a prison sentence that is unconstitutional.
A petition for a federal writ of habeas corpus may be appropriate if the state court’s ruling violated federal law or was based on an unreasonable interpretation of the evidence presented at trial.
There is a one-year statute of limitations for most federal habeas corpus petitions.
The individual filing the petition for habeas corpus relief bears the burden of proving that federal law was violated by a “preponderance of the evidence.” As a general rule, the federal court will presume that the findings of the state court during the appeal or state habeas corpus process are correct, unless there is “clear and convincing” evidence that those findings are incorrect.
If you are convicted of a crime in California, you may be able to petition the court for post-conviction relief. A post-conviction petition is a petition that seeks a specific legal remedy from the court for individuals who believe they have been wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit, sentenced to an excessive term of imprisonment, or unlawfully detained in violation of their constitutional rights.
There are many different types of post-conviction petitions that individuals incarcerated in California can pursue, including criminal appeals, habeas corpus petitions, commutation applications, and SB 1437 and AB 2942 petitions.
A commutation is a form of executive clemency (leniency) granted by the governor of California. If you have been convicted of a crime in the state of California and you are currently serving your sentence in county jail or state prison, you can petition the governor to commute, or reduce, your sentence.
Unlike an appeal, a commutation is not intended to overturn or reverse a criminal conviction. Rather, it simply reduces or eliminates a sentence or helps an inmate get a parole hearing earlier than he or she would otherwise be eligible for parole. A commutation can also reduce a death sentence to a life sentence.
There are specific requirements in place for commutation applications in California. First, you must submit a Notice of Intent to Apply for Clemency to the district attorney in the county where you were convicted. Then you must submit a Commutation Application to the Governor’s Office. It is important that you do things in the proper order when applying for a commuted sentence, or else risk hurting your chances of your application being reviewed or granted by the governor.
The governor of California has no obligation to grant your commutation, or even review your application. If he decides to act on your application, however, he will refer your case to the Board of Parole Hearings for investigation before making a decision to grant or deny the commutation.
When deciding whether to approve your application and grant a commutation of your sentence, the governor will consider the following factors, among others:
- The nature and severity of your crime
- The sentence imposed
- Harm suffered by victims
- The age of the crime and your age at the time the crime took place
- Your age at the time of the application
- How much of your sentence you have already served
- The impact of a commutation on the community
- Your plans upon release from custody
- Your conduct since the crime
- Your rehabilitation during incarceration
Under California law, one of the factors the Parole Board may consider when conducting an investigation for a commutation application is whether the convicted defendant was a victim of “intimate partner battering.” If you were the victim of domestic violence by an intimate partner, the Parole Board may use this fact as grounds for recommending a commuted sentence in your case.
If the governor grants your commutation, the commutation will be filed with the California Secretary of State and reported to the California Legislature. Your criminal record will then be updated to indicate that your sentence for the conviction was commuted.
Senate Bill 1437 is a bill that effectively repealed California’s existing felony-murder law and narrowed the circumstances under which an accomplice to a felony crime that results in a victim’s death can be prosecuted for murder.
Pursuant to SB 1437, which was signed into law in September 2018, a defendant can now only be guilty of felony murder if he or she is the actual killer, acted with intent to kill, was a major participant in the crime and acted with “reckless indifference to human life,” or if, as a result of the defendant’s actions, a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties was killed.
According to the law, a defendant may be eligible for resentencing under SB 1437 if the following is true:
- The defendant was convicted of felony murder under the theory of “natural and probable consequences,”
- The defendant was convicted of first- or second-degree murder, and
- The defendant would not have been convicted of murder under the new felony-murder law.
If you were convicted of felony murder under California’s old felony-murder law, you can petition to have your murder conviction vacated and your sentence reduced based on any remaining charges. A successful SB 1437 petition could potentially take years or even decades off your prison sentence.
Under California law, a petition for a reduced sentence pursuant to SB 1437 must be filed with your defense attorney, the court that sentenced you and the agency that prosecuted you. The petition must include a declaration showing that you are eligible for resentencing, which an experienced criminal appeals attorney can help you with.
If your SB 1437 petition is granted, meaning you showed that you are eligible for a reduced sentence under the new felony-murder law, you will be required to attend a resentencing hearing, during which it will be determined whether or not the sentence actually gets reduced.
During the resentencing hearing, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that your sentence should not be reduced. If the prosecutor is unable to do so, your felony-murder conviction will be vacated and you will be resentenced based on the remaining criminal charges.
Assembly Bill 2942, which went into effect in January 2019, is a bill that makes it possible for district attorneys to review past cases and recommended a reduced sentence if the sentence being served is no longer “in the interest of justice.” AB 2942 allows inmates serving excessive sentences under outdated sentencing guidelines to petition for a reduction of their sentence.
Inmates who may qualify for resentencing under AB 2942 include those who have been rehabilitated during their incarceration and are ready to re-enter society, and those who were sentenced to an original term of imprisonment that was excessive or overly punitive based on the crime.
When deciding whether to grant a petition for resentencing under AB 2942, the court will consider a number of post-conviction factors, including the following:
- The defendant’s disciplinary record and record of rehabilitation
- Evidence that continued incarceration does not serve justice
- Whether the defendant’s risk of recidivism has been reduced
If you were convicted of a crime and sentenced to an excessive or overly punitive term of imprisonment under California’s old sentencing guidelines, or if you have served a significant portion of a long prison sentence and you feel you have been rehabilitated and are ready to re-enter society, a successful AB 2942 petition can provide you with a second chance at freedom.
AB 2942 applies to any criminal offense and any type of sentence.
No. There are no requirements under AB 2942 for serving a certain amount of time before qualifying for resentencing.
If you have been convicted of a criminal offense in California, and you need legal advice, contact a knowledgeable attorney who has experience handling criminal appeals and post-conviction petitions in California. Having a lawyer on your side can significantly improve your chances of getting your conviction overturned or your sentence reduced.
The California criminal justice system is complicated, and the process of overturning a conviction or reducing a sentence can be long and difficult, especially for someone without extensive experience handling criminal appeals in California. If you have been convicted of a crime and you plan to appeal the conviction or apply for resentencing, you need a lawyer in your corner who has extensive experience handling cases like yours.
At Pat Ford Appeals, we have seen the devastation a criminal conviction can cause for defendants and their loved ones, especially in cases where the defendant was wrongfully convicted for a crime he didn’t commit or sentenced to an excessive term of imprisonment, and we are committed to helping those convicted and sentenced for crimes in California get a second chance at justice.
Attorney Pat Ford is an expert on all topics related to California criminal law, including criminal appeals, writs of habeas corpus, petitions for post-conviction relief, commutation applications and SB 1437 and AB 2942 petitions. He has represented criminal defendants on appeal and during post-conviction proceedings for years, in both state and federal courts, and he will defend your rights and represent your best interests from the very beginning.
Our criminal appeals lawyers understand that a criminal case doesn’t necessarily end with a conviction and we also know how difficult it can be to secure a reduced sentence or overturn a criminal conviction on appeal. The criminal justice system doesn’t often work in favor of the defendant, which is why you need to protect your rights when pursuing a criminal defense appeal or constitutional law dispute. When you retain our law firm, we will pore over the record of your criminal trial to identify any potential errors, advise you of the options for appeals available to you under the law, and carefully prepare your criminal appeal to ensure that it is as strong and convincing as possible.
Over the past 30-plus years, attorney Pat Ford has earned an excellent reputation as an aggressive, compassionate and committed appellate lawyer. He has dedicated his career to defending the rights of clients in criminal defense appeals and constitutional law disputes and is especially well-known for his landmark win before the Supreme Court in Riley v. California. Throughout his career as a criminal appeals lawyer, Pat Ford has appealed death penalty verdicts before the Supreme Court of California and represented clients before the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2015, Pat Ford was named appellate lawyer of the year by the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association and Appellate Defenders Inc., and he has an AVVO rating of 10 out of 10, which puts him in the category of “superb.” When you hire attorney Pat Ford to represent you in your criminal appeals case, you can rest assured that you are being represented by the best.
At Pat Ford Appeals, we know how important it is to act quickly to appeal a wrongful conviction before the strict time limit runs out or take the time to ensure that a post-conviction petition is accurate, truthful and as strong and convincing as possible. When you hire Pat Ford Appeals, we will use every resource at our disposal to help you get the outcome you want in your case, but if you wait too long before hiring our firm, you could end up limiting your options for appeal. Contact our law firm immediately after the court where your case was heard passes the final judgment or order, to prevent any delays that could cause you to lose your appellate rights.
We offer prospective clients a free consultation, which means you can have a skilled criminal appeals lawyer review your case at no cost to you. This can help you get a feel for the strengths and weaknesses of your case and determine whether working with our firm is a good fit for you.