Any time you are dealing with the criminal justice system in San Diego, you should have an experienced criminal appeals attorney on your side to defend your rights and represent your best interests, and this is especially true during the criminal appeals process. Successfully appealing a criminal conviction in San Diego is not easy and it takes the expertise of a knowledgeable criminal appeals lawyer who has a comprehensive understanding of the law and the post-conviction remedies available to you based on your specific situation. If you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime you didn’t commit, or if the judge in your criminal case handed down an unjust sentence, you may be able to appeal the conviction and/or the sentence or pursue some other legal remedy by filing a post-conviction petition for relief. At Pat Ford Appeals, we specialize in criminal appeals and post-conviction proceedings in San Diego, and we can help you determine the best course of action in your case.
Criminal Appeals Attorney San Diego
The state of California is known across the country for its tough-on-crime approach to criminal justice and the penalties associated with criminal convictions in San Diego are infamously harsh. It’s no wonder, then, that California has one of the largest prison populations in the United States and the largest population of inmates serving long-term sentences. If you have been convicted of a crime in San Diego, it is natural to feel shocked and overwhelmed, especially if you are innocent, but you must remember that a conviction doesn’t have to be the end of the road for you. As much as the law is designed to impose harsh punishments on convicted offenders, it also provides powerful legal tools for those who have been wrongfully convicted or unjustly sentenced to seek post-conviction relief. Whatever legal remedy you believe you are entitled to receive, you can significantly improve your chances of securing a favorable outcome in your case by seeking legal guidance from a skilled San Diego criminal appeals lawyer. At Pat Ford Appeals, we respect your rights and care about your well-being and we will do everything in our power to help you get the best result possible.
Criminal Appeals San Diego
If you have been convicted of a crime in San Diego, you are probably wondering how having a conviction on your criminal record will impact your future. Depending on the severity of the crime, you could end up serving time in a county jail or state prison, which is just one of the ways a conviction can adversely affect your life. Even after you have served your sentence, the conviction will remain on your criminal record, which could make it difficult for you to secure employment, obtain housing or acquire professional licensing. In California, the most serious criminal offenses are punishable by a life sentence or even the death penalty, in which case the stakes are even higher and the need for a knowledgeable San Diego criminal appeals lawyer is even greater.
Whether you are serving a sentence for a misdemeanor crime like petty theft or drug possession or a felony crime like murder or rape, you have the right to a fair trial. Unfortunately, judges sometimes make mistakes, juries can return the wrong verdict and prosecutors can act unethically. Even defense lawyers can fail to provide their clients with competent legal representation during trial. That is why Pat Ford has dedicated his practice to helping convicted defendants explore all of the options available to them for post-conviction relief. In criminal law, the term “post-conviction” refers to the legal process that takes place after a defendant is convicted of a criminal offense at trial. At Pat Ford Appeals, we can assist with petitions for all types of post-conviction relief in San Diego, including the following.
Misdemeanor and Felony Appeals
Individuals who have been wrongfully convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense in San Diego can file an appeal for a higher court (an appellate court) to review the ruling of the trial court. During the appellate review process, the appeals court will go over the trial record and look for any legal errors made by the judge, jury, prosecution or defense that affected the outcome of the case. Misdemeanor appeals are filed with the Appellate Division of the Superior Court and felony appeals are filed with the California Court of Appeal.
Writ of Habeas Corpus Petitions
A writ of habeas corpus is a court order requesting that a prisoner be brought before the court to determine whether the prisoner’s incarceration is lawful. Obtaining a writ of habeas corpus is considered an “extraordinary remedy” and is typically used as a last resort for individuals who want to challenge their imprisonment or the conditions of their imprisonment, usually after they have already attempted to overturn their conviction or obtain a new sentence through the appeals process.
A commutation is a type of executive clemency that may be granted by the governor of California in cases where an inmate currently serving a sentence for a state crime petitions to have his or her sentence reduced or eliminated. A commutation application can also be used to reduce a death sentence to a life sentence, or to get an early parole hearing.
SB 1437 Petitions
In September 2018, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 1437, which implemented important changes to California’s existing felony-murder rule. Under the new law, accomplices to felony crimes who did not intend to kill anyone during the commission of the crime and were not the actual killers can no longer be held accountable for a murder committed by another person. The law is also retroactive, which means accomplices convicted under California’s old felony-murder law can petition to have their murder conviction vacated and their sentence reduced under SB 1437.
AB 2942 Petitions
Also passed in 2018 was Assembly Bill 2942, which made it possible for California prosecutors to revisit prior cases and recommend a sentence reduction in cases where the sentence the prisoner is currently serving is “no longer in the interest of justice.” For instance, if you were convicted of a crime and you received a sentence that was excessive or overly punitive based on the crime, or if you have served a significant portion of a long sentence, you have been rehabilitated during your incarceration, and you are ready to re-enter society, you may qualify for resentencing under AB 2942.
San Diego Criminal Appeals Court
There are six district courts that handle criminal appeals in California, and in San Diego, appeals are heard by the Fourth District Court of Appeal. This appellate court is separated into the following three geographic divisions:
- Fourth Appellate District Division One, which is located in San Diego and has jurisdiction over appeals in Imperial and San Diego Counties
- Fourth Appellate District Division Two, which is located in Riverside and has jurisdiction over appeals in Inyo, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties
- Fourth Appellate District Division Three, which is located in Santa Ana and has jurisdiction over appeals in Orange County.
If you appeal your conviction or sentence to the appeals court and your appeal is unsuccessful, you can request a review by the Supreme Court of California, which is the highest court in the state. In most cases, the appellate process ends with the Supreme Court of California’s decision. However, you may also petition the Supreme Court of the United States to review your case, if there are important issues at hand having to do with federal law or the United States Constitution. Keep in mind that the Supreme Court of the United States is not obligated to review any case and grants fewer than 5% of petitions. Even the Supreme Court of California, which receives thousands of petitions for review every year, grants fewer than 5%, which is why it is so important to get your criminal appeal right the first time around.
Grounds for Appealing a Criminal Conviction
Just because you aren’t happy with the outcome of your criminal case doesn’t mean you can change the outcome by filing an appeal. Criminal appeals are only appropriate in cases where an error was made by the trial court that prejudiced the defendant, meaning the error was a mistake of the law or court procedures that caused the defendant significant harm. Some common examples of prejudicial errors that may make you eligible for a criminal appeal in San Diego include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Improper communication between jurors and the prosecution
- Ineffective assistance of counsel by your defense attorney
- Improperly admitted or excluded evidence
- Prosecutor commenting on inadmissible evidence in front of the jury
- Lack of sufficient evidence to warrant a guilty verdict
- Incorrect instructions given to the jury by the judge
If the appellate court finds that an error occurred that was prejudicial, the court may reverse the decision of the trial court or remand your case back to the trial court for a new trial. If the appellate court finds that no error occurred at the trial level, or that an error occurred but the error was harmless, meaning it was not prejudicial, the appellate court will affirm the decision of the trial court.
Finding a Criminal Appeals Lawyer in San Diego
At Pat Ford Appeals, we specialize in representing clients after a criminal conviction or guilty plea and we have extensive experience handling direct appeals and petitions for recall or resentencing. If you choose to enlist the services of Pat Ford Appeals, we can help you understand the options for post-conviction relief that may be available to you based on the circumstances of your case, and ensure that whatever remedy you pursue, you do so effectively and in a timely manner. There are strict requirements in place for seeking post-conviction relief in San Diego, as well as time limits for filing certain petitions, and you don’t want to miss your opportunity to correct a miscarriage of justice and get a second chance at freedom because of a filing error. For instance, in California, there is a 30-day statute of limitations for misdemeanor appeals and a 60-day statute of limitations for felony appeals, which means you have very little time following your conviction to find a San Diego criminal appeals lawyer and file a petition for appellate review.
As you can see, when it comes to appealing a criminal conviction in San Diego or filing a petition for some other kind of post-conviction relief, it is imperative that you act quickly to hire a San Diego criminal appeals lawyer and begin the process of preparing and filing the necessary legal paperwork. When you hire Pat Ford to handle your San Diego criminal appeal, he will immediately get to work reviewing your trial record to determine whether an error was made during the pre-trial investigation, trial or sentencing hearing that affected the outcome of your case, to determine whether you are eligible for an appeal. If the deadline for a criminal appeal has already passed, or if the outcome of your case was not the result of a prejudicial error, Pat Ford will help you explore your other options for post-conviction relief and ensure that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each option. We know better than anyone that a criminal case doesn’t end with a conviction and we don’t stop fighting for the rights of our clients, even after a criminal conviction.
Contact Pat Ford Appeals for a Free Consultation
It is our number one priority at Pat Ford Appeals to help our clients move on with their lives as quickly as possible following a criminal conviction. Unfortunately, the process of appealing a criminal conviction or seeking some other post-conviction remedy can be long and difficult, which is why we always recommend enlisting the help of a practiced San Diego criminal appeals lawyer. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice in San Diego, we will help you pursue the post-conviction relief you believe you are entitled to, whether that means a reversal of your criminal conviction, a new trial or a reduced sentence. Take advantage of our free consultation and case evaluation offer and call Pat Ford Appeals today to find out how San Diego criminal appeals lawyer Pat Ford can help.