A criminal conviction is never something that should be taken lightly, but a wrongful conviction or unjust prison sentence can be especially devastating for convicted defendants and their loved ones. If you have been convicted of a felony offense in California, you have the right to appeal to a higher court to review the trial court’s decision in your case. A criminal appeal is one type of post-conviction remedy available to defendants in California who were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit or unfairly sentenced due to legal errors made during the trial court proceedings. If you submit your felony conviction for appellate review and your appeal is successful, the court may overturn the conviction and dismiss the criminal charges or grant you a new trial, giving you a second chance at freedom. For more information about the felony appeals process in California, or to schedule a free consultation with a skilled criminal appeals lawyer, contact Pat Ford appeals attorney as soon as possible.
California Felony Appeals Lawyer
The unfortunate truth is that the criminal justice system is imperfect, and people make mistakes, even judges, juries, prosecutors and defense attorneys who we rely on to uphold the law and prevent miscarriages of justice. And as a result of such mistakes, innocent individuals can be wrongfully convicted of crimes they didn’t commit and sentenced to harsh terms of imprisonment in a California state or federal prison. Fortunately, the state of California has an appeals system in place that allows defendants who have been wronged by the California criminal justice system to attempt to remedy the injustice by filing a criminal appeal to challenge their criminal conviction and/or sentence.
When a California appeals court reviews a trial court decision, it does so with the assumption that the trial court proceedings complied with the law, which means it is up to your appeals attorney to show the appellate court that the police, jury, prosecution or judge made a legal error during the pre-trial investigation, trial or sentencing hearing, and that the error was such that it made a difference in the outcome of your case. At Pat Ford Appeals, we represent clients in misdemeanor and felony appeals in San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Fresno, San Bernardino, Riverside, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento Metro Area, and with our experienced attorneys on your side, you can significantly improve your chances of winning your criminal appeal.
What is a Felony Appeal?
Defendants in California who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes they didn’t commit or sentenced to an unreasonably harsh prison sentence get a second chance at justice through the appellate review process. Simply put, a criminal appeal is a request for a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court, and a felony appeal specifically refers to any criminal case where the defendant was originally prosecuted for a felony offense, such as murder, robbery or rape. Most criminal appeals are based on alleged errors in the law or legal procedures that hurt the defendant’s case or prevented the defendant from receiving a fair trial.
What Does an Appeal Entail?
It is important to understand that a criminal appeal is not the same thing as a new trial. By filing an appeal, you are simply asking the appellate court to go over the existing record from the trial court to determine whether any legal errors were made that changed the outcome of the case. The court will not retry the case, hear testimony from witnesses or accept any new evidence, nor will it consider “questions of fact,” such as the value of a certain piece of evidence, the credibility of a witness or the defendant’s innocence or guilt. Instead, the court will simply go over the pre-trial and post-trial motions, any documents and other items entered into evidence, and the transcripts of statements made by the judge, attorneys and witnesses, in order to determine whether legal errors were made during the course of the case that resulted in an unjust conviction or sentence. Even if the appellate court identifies an error in the trial, the error must be “prejudicial,” meaning it would have changed the outcome of the case. Otherwise, the appellate court will consider the error “harmless” and the trial court’s decision will stand.
Grounds for a Felony Appeal
When it comes to establishing the grounds for a felony appeal, a prejudicial legal error means someone involved in the original criminal case – the judge, jury, police, prosecutor or defense attorney – behaved in such a way that their actions constituted a violation of California law. Some common examples of prejudicial errors that may serve as grounds for a felony appeal in California include the following:
- False arrest
- Insufficient evidence
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
- Sentencing errors
- Improperly instructed jury
- Jury misconduct
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Improper admission or exclusion of evidence
Filing a Felony Criminal Appeal
Unlike misdemeanor appeals, which are filed with the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, felony appeals are filed with the California Court of Appeal, unless the original trial was for a federal crime, in which case, the appeal would be filed with the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. There are six district courts that handle felony appeals in California and you are required to file an appeal in the district that has jurisdiction over the county in which your trial took place. For instance, the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District is located in San Francisco, and this court has jurisdiction over Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma Counties.
Pursuing an appeal for a felony conviction in California can be a long, complicated and frustrating process. In fact, it can take as long as one year from the time you file your Notice of Appeal for the appeals court to make its final decision, or even longer depending on the specific facts of the criminal case. Although the exact steps of the appeals process can vary from case to case, the following is the general outline of a criminal appeal in California:
- Filing the Notice of Appeal
- Obtaining the trial record
- Appellant’s opening brief
- Respondent’s brief
- Appellant’s reply brief
- Oral arguments
- The court’s ruling
- Petition for rehearing
- Petition for review
Statute of Limitations for Felony Appeals
Just like a misdemeanor appeal, there is a statute of limitations for felony appeals in California. If you are convicted of a felony offense or sentenced to an unreasonably harsh term of imprisonment and you plan to appeal the trial court’s decision, you will have only 60 days from the date of the ruling to file your felony Notice of Appeal. If you are late filing your Notice of Appeal, the appellate court will likely reject your case outright, so don’t wait to hire a criminal appeals lawyer and get the process started.
Appealing a Guilty or “No Contest” Plea
Even if you pleaded guilty or “no contest” to a felony offense in California, you may still be able to file an appeal if you can show that your plea was not voluntary or was in some way invalid. For instance, if the judge failed to inform you of your constitutional rights, or if your defense attorney failed to properly notify you about the consequences of accepting a plea agreement, you can argue that the plea was unlawful and request an appeal.
What are the Possible Outcomes of a Felony Appeal?
If the appellate court reviews the trial court proceedings and finds that there were no legal errors made that affected the outcome of your trial, you will lose your appeal and the trial court’s ruling will stand. On the other hand, if the appellate court agrees with you that a legal error prejudiced your case and you win your appeal, the type of remedy issued by the appellate court will depend on the conditions of your appeal. There are three main outcomes that can result from a successful felony appeal:
- The appellate court reverses the conviction and dismisses the criminal charges against you, or orders a new sentence
- The appellate court grants you a new trial with a different defense attorney (if you are appealing on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel)
- The appellate court remands the case back to the trial court with instructions on how to remedy the legal error
What if My Felony Appeal is Unsuccessful?
As you can see, a trial court’s ruling isn’t always the final say in a criminal case. Even if you lose your appeal at the appellate level, you can request to have your case reviewed by the Supreme Court of California, which is the highest court in California. However, the California Supreme Court has no obligation to review all decisions made by the Court of Appeal and only accepts a handful of cases per year, which is the main reason we encourage clients to seek qualified legal counsel the first time around. Even after you have exhausted your options for a direct appeal, you may still be able to challenge your conviction or sentence by filing a petition for a state writ of habeas corpus. If you are serving a sentence in state prison and your state writ of habeas corpus petition is unsuccessful, you may be able to file a federal habeas corpus petition if you believe you are being unlawfully imprisoned in violation of your constitutional rights.
How Our Criminal Appeals Attorneys Can Help
As a general rule, the chances of overturning a felony conviction on appeal aren’t great, and if your appeal is denied by the California Court of Appeal, there is no guarantee that it will be heard by the California Supreme Court, which is why you need to make sure your appeal is as strong as possible the first time around. That means retaining the services of a California criminal appeals attorney who has extensive appellate experience, and a clear understanding of the law, the deadlines for filing an appeal, and other important aspects of the appeals process. If you were convicted of a crime you didn’t commit in California, or if you believe you are the victim of a miscarriage of justice, it is imperative that you understand your rights and options under the law. With the help of a qualified and respected California criminal appeals lawyer, you can pursue an appeal and seek to have your felony conviction overturned or your sentence reduced. When it comes to filing a felony appeal, the outcome of which can change your life for better or worse, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than the best. When you choose Pat Ford Appeals to handle your appeal, you get a knowledgeable, well-respected lawyer with more than three decades of experience handling criminal appeals in the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Contact Pat Ford Appeals for a Free Case Review
Just because you have been found guilty of a felony offense in California and sentenced to prison doesn’t necessarily mean the trial court’s ruling is the end of your legal battle. If you believe errors were made in your case that affected the outcome of the trial, you have the right to appeal your conviction and/or sentence and ask a higher court to review the trial court’s decision for any legal errors. The laws governing the appeals process in California are strict and any mistakes you make when filing your appeal can jeopardize your case, which is why it is always a good idea to hire a practiced felony appeals attorney when appealing a criminal conviction or sentence in California. If you or someone you love has been convicted of a felony offense and you believe the conviction occurred because of a prejudicial error, you may be able to get the conviction overturned on appeal. Contact Pat Ford Appeals as soon as possible to have your case reviewed by a skilled and aggressive criminal appeals attorney with more than 30 years of experience handling felony and misdemeanor appeals in California.