The criminal justice system is meant to bring those who have committed crimes to justice, but the system is far from perfect and there are many cases in which innocent individuals are wrongfully convicted of crimes they didn’t commit and end up serving time in jail or prison. That is why California has a misdemeanor appeals process in place, to provide convicted defendants with an opportunity to appeal their conviction or sentence, asking the court to reverse the outcome on the basis that the conviction or sentence resulting from the conviction were reached in error. If you believe you have been wronged by the California criminal justice system and are therefore entitled to a reversal of your misdemeanor conviction, a new sentence or a new trial, contact Pat Ford Appeals as soon as possible to have an experienced criminal appeals lawyer review your case.
California Misdemeanor Appeals Attorney
We rely on the criminal justice system to fairly and impartially identify those who are guilty of breaking the law and punish their criminal behavior. Unfortunately, judges can make mistakes during trial, by refusing to exclude improper evidence presented by the prosecution or failing to properly instruct the jury on the law, and so can juries, by returning the wrong verdict. Even prosecutors and defense attorneys can act in a way that results in a miscarriage of justice. If any of these things happened in your California criminal case and you were convicted as a result, don’t lose hope. You may have a second chance at justice through the California criminal appeals process.
If you file an appeal and the appellate court discovers that an error was made during the course of your case that affected the outcome, the appellate court can change the trial court’s decision completely or partly, or it can order the trial court to conduct a new trial. If you are successful in your appeal, depending on the grounds on which you filed your appeal, you could have your sentence reduced or your conviction overturned and the charges against you dismissed, which is why you need a skilled and aggressive misdemeanor appeals attorney representing your case. At Pat Ford Appeals, we handle both misdemeanor and felony appeals, and we will fight for your rights through every stage of the criminal appeals process.
What is an Appeal?
In criminal law, an appeal is a request for a higher court – an appellate court – to review a ruling made by a lower court – a trial court – in order to identify and remedy any serious errors made by the court that could have affected the outcome of the trial. When you are convicted of a crime and file an appeal, you can appeal the court’s decision in whole or in part. In other words, you can challenge the conviction itself and the sentence that resulted from the conviction, or just the sentence. It is important to understand that an appeal is not a new trial. Therefore, appellate courts do not review any new evidence or testimony, nor do they retry the case during an appeal. All an appellate court does in considering a misdemeanor appeal is review the existing trial record, which includes pre-trial and post-trial motions, transcripts of statements made by the judge, witnesses and lawyers, and any documents and items entered into evidence, in order to determine whether there were legal errors made during the proceeding that resulted in an unjust criminal conviction or sentence.
Is My Appeal a Misdemeanor or Felony Appeal?
There are two main types of criminal appeals in California – misdemeanor appeals and felony appeals – and it can sometimes be confusing figuring out which type of appeal applies to your case. When it comes to filing a California criminal appeal, a misdemeanor appeal would apply to any case where the defendant was originally prosecuted for a misdemeanor offense, or a misdemeanor and an infraction, but not a felony. On the other hand, a felony appeal would apply to any case where the defendant was originally prosecuted for a felony offense, regardless of the outcome of the case. What that means is, if you were charged with a misdemeanor and a felony offense, even if you were only convicted of the misdemeanor, your appeal would still be considered a felony appeal.
Grounds for a Misdemeanor Appeal
One of the most important things to understand about the appeals process is that California appellate courts will only look for serious errors that violated California law and had an impact on the outcome of your case in considering your appeal. The court will not consider questions of fact, such as the defendant’s innocence or guilt, the credibility of a witness, or the value of a certain piece of evidence, nor will it consider any errors that are deemed to be “harmless,” meaning errors that, had they not occurred, still would not have changed the outcome of the case. Some common serious errors that may be grounds for a misdemeanor appeal in California include the following:
- The jury received improper instructions from the judge
- The judge improperly admitted or excluded evidence
- The prosecution intentionally misstated the law
- The wrong law was applied to your case
- The defense attorney was guilty of ineffective assistance of counsel
- The prosecution commented on inadmissible evidence
- There was improper communication between jurors and witness or counsel
- The judge abused his discretion when imposing the sentence
- There was insufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict
Appealing a Guilty or “No Contest” Plea
The appeals process in California generally only applies to criminal convictions. If you pleaded guilty or “no contest” to a criminal offense in California, you may still be able to file an appeal, but only on the basis of a sentencing or Fourth Amendment issue, that is, an issue involving an alleged illegal search and seizure. In California, a guilty plea automatically waives appellate review, except in cases where the legality of the plea itself or the trial court’s jurisdiction in hearing the case is in question.
How to Appeal a Criminal Conviction
Just because you were found guilty of a crime at trial does not mean you have to give up on your case. With the right legal counsel, you may be able to appeal your conviction and/or sentence and get your life back on track. The appeals process is very different from the criminal trial process, which is why it is in your best interest to hire a knowledgeable criminal appeals lawyer who can guide you through the appeals process and ensure that your rights are protected. The following are the main steps in a California criminal appeal:
- Filing a notice of appeal
- Obtaining the trial record
- Appellant’s opening brief
- Respondent’s brief
- Appellant’s reply brief
- Conducting oral arguments
- The court’s ruling
- Petition for rehearing
- Petition for review
When you are convicted of a misdemeanor crime by a state court in California and you file an appeal, you do so with the Appellate Division of the Superior Court. If your appeal is unsuccessful at the appellate court level, you can apply to have your case reviewed by the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court is the highest court in the state and decisions made by the California Supreme Court are binding on all other California state courts, which means the appellate process ends with the Supreme Court’s decision. Unfortunately, the California Supreme Court is not obligated to review every appellate court decision, and of the thousands of petitions for review the court receives every year, it grants fewer than 5 percent, which is why you need a reputable appeals attorney on your side who can get you a favorable result the first time around.
If you were appealing a federal criminal conviction, rather than a state conviction, you would file your appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit, and if that appeal was unsuccessful, with the Supreme Court of the United States.
Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanor Appeals
There is a statute of limitations in place for criminal appeals in California, which means you only have a limited amount of time to file a notice of appeal in your case, after which point your appeal application could be rejected outright. For misdemeanor appeals, the statute of limitations is just 30 days from the date of the trial court’s ruling, which is why we always encourage individuals who plan to appeal their conviction or sentence to contact a criminal appeals attorney immediately, to avoid delays in the application process. The law is strict when it comes to criminal appeals, and late applications will not be accepted.
What a Successful Appeal Could Mean for You
If your misdemeanor appeal is granted at the appellate court level or by the California Supreme Court, the court could overturn the conviction or order some other remedy, depending on the circumstances of your case. For instance, if you are appealing a conviction on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, the appellate court may grant you a new trial with a different defense attorney. If your appeal is on the grounds of an unreasonably harsh criminal sentence or some other legal error, the appellate court may remand the case back to the trial court with instructions on how to cure the error. If you are appealing on the grounds of there being insufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict, the appellate court may reverse the conviction and dismiss the charges against you. As a general rule, your chances of overturning your misdemeanor conviction or getting your sentence reduced on appeal depend on how strong your argument is, which is where Pat Ford Appeals comes in.
Hiring the Right Misdemeanor Appeals Lawyer
Successfully appealing a criminal conviction in California is not easy. In most cases, the appellate court will stand by the trial court’s decision, unless there is clear evidence that the trial court made a legal error and that the error was “prejudicial,” or made a difference in the outcome of the trial. Even so, that doesn’t mean you should just accept your conviction and serve your sentence, especially not if you have a legitimate claim. Misdemeanor convictions do sometimes get reversed and sentences do get reduced, but without the help of a practiced misdemeanor appeals lawyer who can thoroughly review your case and identify mistakes made by the trial court, your chances of winning your appeal aren’t great. At Pat Ford Appeals, we know how to look for mistakes made by judges, juries, prosecutors or defense attorneys and identify serious problems that could lead to a successful criminal appeal. We also know that a criminal conviction can change the rest of your life, which is why we dedicate our firm to defending the rights of those who have been unfairly accused of criminal offenses.
Schedule a Free Consultation with Pat Ford Appeals
Any criminal defendant in California who believes that he or she received an unfair trial or an unreasonably harsh criminal sentence because of a mistake in the law or legal procedures has the right to challenge the criminal conviction or sentence by filing an appeal. Criminal appeals give convicted defendants the opportunity to have a higher court review the trial court’s decision and, if errors are discovered, remedy the injustice by reversing the original ruling or ordering a new trial. Unfortunately, the appeals process is long and complicated and there are strict rules that must be followed when attempting to overturn a misdemeanor conviction or sentence on appeal, which is why you need a criminal appeals lawyer on your side who understands the law and how it applies to your case. Without a thorough understanding of the laws governing the California criminal appeals process, you could end up forfeiting your right to appeal and serving time in jail for a crime you didn’t commit. For more information about misdemeanor appeals in California and how to successfully appeal a criminal conviction or sentence, contact Pat Ford Appeals.