A criminal conviction can be a terrifying event, one that can change the course of the rest of your life, but being convicted of a crime doesn’t mean your life is over. In fact, a conviction doesn’t even necessarily mean your criminal case is over. At Pat Ford Appeals, we handle criminal appeals on behalf of clients in Fresno and throughout Northern California who have been wrongfully convicted, wrongfully imprisoned, subjected to unnecessarily harsh terms of imprisonment, or adversely affected by some other violation of the law or their rights. If you have been convicted of a crime in Fresno or elsewhere in California, and you are looking for a reputable criminal appeals lawyer to help you challenge your conviction and/or sentence, contact Pat Ford Appeals as soon as possible. Attorney Pat Ford has more than 30 years of experience fighting for the rights of the criminally accused and convicted, and he can help you get the best possible result in your criminal appeal.
Criminal Appeals Lawyer Fresno
No one deserves to be convicted of a crime they didn’t commit or forced to serve an excessively long prison sentence or a life sentence that serves no public safety purpose. Unfortunately, the California criminal justice system is far from perfect, and mistakes are made all the time during pre-trial investigations, trials and sentencing hearings that can result in a miscarriage of justice, which is why there are laws in place that provide defendants with a second chance at justice after they have been found guilty of a crime at trial. If you were wrongfully convicted of a criminal offense or sentenced to an unfairly harsh term of imprisonment because of legal errors or constitutional violations that deprived you of your right to a fair trial, don’t leave your future up to chance. At Pat Ford Appeals, we know how devastating it can be for defendants and their loved ones to endure a criminal conviction and lengthy prison sentence, and when you hire our firm, we will help you navigate each step of the post-conviction process.
Attorney Pat Ford specializes in criminal appeals in Fresno and the surrounding areas and he knows what it takes to win an appeal or get a post-conviction petition granted. When you hire Pat Ford to represent your case, he will go above and beyond to protect your rights, ensure that you understand the post-conviction options available to you under the law, and fight for a favorable outcome on your behalf.
Criminal Appeals Fresno
Just because you have been found guilty of committing a crime doesn’t mean you sacrifice your rights. In Fresno, a person who has been convicted of a crime has several options for seeking redress or a specific remedy from the criminal justice system post-trial, a legal procedure known as pursuing post-conviction relief. The following are some options for criminal appeals and post-conviction petitions that may be available to you after a criminal conviction in Fresno.
Misdemeanor and Felony Appeals
If your criminal conviction was recent, your first step should be to file a criminal appeal. An appeal is a petition to a higher court (an appeals court) to reverse the decision of a lower court (a trial court) based on errors of the law or legal procedure. An appeal is not a new trial and during an appeal, the appellate court will not hear testimony or consider any new evidence. Instead, the court will review the existing trial record in order to identify and remedy any errors made by the court that could have changed the outcome of the trial. In Fresno, misdemeanor appeals must be filed within 30 days of the trial court’s judgment and felony appeals must be filed within 60 days of the judgment, so don’t wait to hire an attorney and get the appeals process started.
Habeas Corpus Petitions
If your misdemeanor or felony appeal was unsuccessful or you missed the deadline for filing an appeal, filing a state or federal writ of habeas corpus petition to challenge the criminal conviction may still be an option for you. A writ of habeas corpus is a court order requiring the custodian of an imprisoned individual to bring the individual in front of the court and explain why he or she is being held in custody. Even if you were appropriately convicted of a crime, if you believe you are being unlawfully detained in violation of the law or your rights, you can challenge the conditions under which you are serving your sentence by filing a habeas corpus petition.
If you are currently serving a sentence for a state crime in county jail or state prison, and you believe you may be eligible for early release, you can petition the governor to have your sentence commuted, meaning reduced or eliminated. A commutation is a form of executive clemency that can only be granted by the governor of California, and this type of post-conviction relief is generally only available to those who were sentenced to an original term of imprisonment that was excessive or overly punitive. A commutation cannot reverse a criminal conviction or change a guilty verdict, it can only reduce or eliminate a sentence or help an inmate get a parole hearing before he or she would have otherwise been eligible for parole.
California is known for its aggressive approach to prosecuting and punishing criminal offenses, and a prime example of this approach was the state’s former felony-murder law. Under this infamous law, a criminal defendant could be held responsible for the deaths of victims that occurred during the commission of a felony crime, such as robbery, even if that defendant didn’t actually participate in the killing. In other words, such defendants were “guilty by association.” However, Senate Bill 1437, passed in 2018, effectively eliminated the use of the felony-murder rule in cases where an accomplice to a felony crime where a victim is killed had no intent to kill. As a result of SB 1437, which is retroactive, prisoners currently serving time for murder under the old law can petition to have their murder conviction vacated and their sentence reduced.
Assembly Bill 2942 Petitions
As a result of years and years of being tough on crime, California’s prisons are extremely overcrowded and many inmates are serving unnecessarily long and overly punitive sentences. In 2018, in response to these issues, California lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 2942, which gave district attorneys the discretionary power to review and recall the sentences of prisoners who are serving lengthy prison sentences, in cases where the prisoners have been rehabilitated and are ready to re-enter society. If you have served a significant portion of a long prison sentence and you believe you may be eligible for early release, a knowledgeable criminal appeals attorney can help you file a petition for resentencing under AB 2942.
Fresno Court of Criminal Appeals
The state of California is geographically divided into six appellate districts and each district handles criminal appeals from the superior courts in specific counties. Fresno criminal appeals, for instance, are heard by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which is located in Fresno. In addition to Fresno, the Fifth District hears criminal appeals from the following counties: Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne.
What Happens During an Appeal?
The California Courts of Appeal are the intermediate appellate courts in California that hear criminal appeals from the trial courts, also known as the superior courts. If you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime in Fresno, or sentenced to an unreasonably harsh term of imprisonment, you can appeal the conviction and/or sentence to the Fifth District Court of Appeal, whose decision is binding on the superior court. During an appeal, the appellate court is tasked with reviewing the trial record from the superior court and determining whether any legal error occurred that was prejudicial, meaning it influenced the outcome of the trial. If a prejudicial error is found, the appellate court must take action, either by reversing the trial court’s decision or remanding the case back to the superior court for a new trial.
If the appeals court reviews the trial record in your case and no error is found, or if an error is found but the error was harmless, meaning it did not influence the outcome of the trial, the appellate court will affirm the decision of the lower court. If you appeal your conviction and/or sentence to the Fifth District Court of Appeal and you aren’t satisfied with the appellate court’s decision, you can request a review by the Supreme Court of California, which is the highest court in the state. The Supreme Court is not obligated to grant review in any case, which is why we always stress that a criminal appeal should be as strong and persuasive as possible from the very beginning. There are some instances in which you can petition the Supreme Court of the United States to hear your case, but typically only if your case involves issues having to do with federal law or the United States Constitution.
Reasons to File an Appeal or Post-Conviction Petition
Filing a petition for post-conviction relief in Fresno can help you obtain a fair and just resolution in your criminal case, and with the help of a knowledgeable criminal appeals lawyer, you can determine what grounds exist for post-conviction relief based on the specific facts of your case. The following are some examples of legal grounds for an appeal or a post-conviction petition in Fresno:
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
- Constitutional violations
- Newly discovered evidence that points towards your innocence
- Changes in the law post-conviction
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Juror misconduct
- No jurisdiction over your case
- Improper admission or exclusion of evidence
- Insufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict
- Wrongful imprisonment
- Unnecessarily harsh sentence not supported by the law or the facts of the case
- Unconstitutional prison conditions
Why Hire a Fresno Criminal Appeals Attorney?
If you have been convicted of a crime in Fresno and you believe the conviction to be wrongful and/or the sentence handed down by the court to be unjust, you have the right to fight the court’s judgment by filing a criminal appeal or petition for post-conviction relief. The appeals and post-conviction process is very different from the criminal court process in Fresno, and if you plan to file an appeal or pursue some other legal remedy following a criminal conviction, it is in your best interest to hire a reputable Fresno criminal appeals lawyer to represent your case. When you retain the services of Pat Ford Appeals, we will thoroughly examine your trial record to identify any mistakes made during your trial that may have changed the outcome of your case, or determine whether any conditions exist that may qualify you for a reduced sentence, and then we will compile our findings into a strong and convincing argument for your appeal or petition for post-conviction relief. Any time you are challenging a criminal conviction, a sentence imposed by the court, or the conditions under which you are serving your sentence, your freedom and your future are on the line, so don’t hesitate to consult a knowledgeable criminal appeals attorney.
Contact Pat Ford Appeals for a Free Consultation
As a society, we depend on the criminal justice system to fairly and impartially identify those individuals who have committed criminal offenses and justly punish their behavior. Unfortunately, the system isn’t perfect and innocent people are sometimes convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, while others are forced to endure harsh penalties that aren’t supported by the facts or the law, and that is where Fresno criminal appeals lawyer Pat Ford comes in. If you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime in Fresno, or if the judge overseeing your case handed down an excessive punishment that is disproportionate to your crime, you could be facing years or even decades behind bars and a criminal appeal or post-conviction petition may be your last chance at justice. Contact Pat Ford Appeals as soon as possible to have your case reviewed by a knowledgeable Fresno criminal appeals attorney.