Say you have been convicted of a crime in San Francisco and the judge in your case hands down a sentence of years or even decades behind bars. You are probably wondering about your options for appealing the conviction, challenging the terms of your incarceration, getting your sentenced reduced or obtaining a new trial, especially if you are innocent of the crime or believe that the conviction or sentence is in violation of the law or your constitutional rights. The truth is that, while the criminal justice system is designed to investigate crimes, protect the innocent and convict those who are guilty, while respecting the rights of all persons, including the accused and convicted, the system is far from perfect. Judges sometimes make bad rulings, juries can return the wrong verdict, defense attorneys can fail to provide their clients with effective counsel, and prosecutors can engage in unethical behavior, all of which can be grounds for a criminal appeal or post-conviction petition for relief. If you or someone you love has been convicted of a crime in the San Francisco Bay Area, don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel. Contact Pat Ford Appeals right away to discuss the post-conviction options available to you based on the specific facts of your case.
Criminal Appeals Lawyer San Francisco Bay Area
The state of California is notoriously tough on crime and criminal offenses in the San Francisco Bay Area are prosecuted and punished extremely harshly. That is why, any time you are involved in a criminal case where the court rules against you, it is in your best interest to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable criminal appeals lawyer who can put together a strong and convincing appeal or post-conviction petition for relief on your behalf. For most people who aren’t familiar with the inner workings of the criminal justice system, a guilty verdict handed down by the trial court may seem like the be-all and end-all of a criminal case, but there are actually quite a few options for post-conviction relief available to individuals convicted of criminal offenses in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pat Ford has represented thousands of clients on appeal and in post-conviction proceedings throughout California, and he has dedicated his practice to helping those who have been wrongfully convicted, unlawfully detained or sentenced to overly punitive terms of imprisonment fight for their rights before the court.
Criminal Appeals San Francisco Bay Area
Even after you have been convicted of a crime, you still have important rights, including the right to seek redress or a legal remedy from the court by filing a criminal appeal or a petition for post-conviction relief. The phrase “post-conviction relief” refers to the variety of legal remedies available to those for whom a trial has resulted in a criminal conviction, and depending on the circumstances of your case, an experienced San Francisco criminal appeals lawyer can help you find the post-conviction petition that gives you the best chance of success. Some common types of post-conviction relief in San Francisco include the following.
If you have recently been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony offense in the San Francisco Bay Area, you may be able to file a criminal appeal requesting that a higher court (an appellate court) reverse the decision of the trial court, but there is a strict timeline for appealing a conviction in San Francisco (30 days for a misdemeanor and 60 days for a felony), so you will want to hire an experienced criminal appeals attorney right away after your conviction, to avoid missing the deadline. It is important to keep in mind that a criminal appeal is not a new trial. During the appellate review process, the appeals court will only examine the existing trial record to determine whether any prejudicial errors were made by the court that affected the outcome of the case.
Writ of Habeas Corpus Petitions
If you believe you are being unlawfully detained due to a legal error that resulted in a wrongful conviction, subjected to prison conditions that are unconstitutional, or kept in prison past the point at which you should have been released, you can challenge your imprisonment or the conditions of your imprisonment by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. “Habeas corpus” is a Latin phrase that literally translates to “produce the body,” and it refers to a court order from a judge requiring the prison official holding a person in custody to bring the person before the court and explain the reason for the person’s detention. A writ of habeas corpus petition is typically seen as a last resort for convicted defendants who have tried and failed to overturn their conviction on appeal.
If you were convicted of a crime in San Francisco and sentenced to county jail or state prison, you may be able to have your sentence reduced or eliminated by filing a commutation application. Depending on the specific facts of your case, a commutation can secure your immediate release from jail or prison, help you get a parole hearing before you would otherwise be eligible for parole, or reduce your death sentence to a life sentence, and this type of post-conviction remedy can only be granted by the governor of California. When you file a petition for commutation, the Board of Parole Hearings will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether a commuted sentence is warranted in your case, and then issue its recommendation to the governor, who makes the final decision on all commutation applications.
In September 2018, then-California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1437, which implemented major changes for the state’s infamous felony-murder law. Under the old law, a defendant could be held criminally liable for murder if a victim died during the commission of a felony offense, such as robbery or burglary, even if the defendant didn’t personally kill the victim and wasn’t present for the actual death. With the passage of SB 1437, a defendant can only be convicted of murder under this law if he or she was the actual killer, “aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, solicited, requested or assisted the actual killer,” or “was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life.” The change in the law established by SB 1437 is retroactive and has resulted in hundreds of petitions for resentencing being filed by prisoners who were convicted of murder under the old felony-murder rule.
Assembly Bill 2942 Petitions
Another new bill signed into law in 2018 is Assembly Bill 2942, which makes it easier for district attorneys to review past cases and retroactively recommend shorter sentences for prisoners serving excessive time in prison. Before AB 2942, prosecutors could only recommend sentence reductions under certain circumstances, such as the discovery of new evidence, but with the passage of this law, they can do so in any case where they determine that a reduced sentence would be in the interest of justice.
Court of Criminal Appeals San Francisco Bay Area
The state of California has six district courts that hear appeals from trial courts, also known as superior courts. Criminal appeals from the San Francisco Bay Area are heard by the First District Court of Appeal, which is located in San Francisco. This court is divided into five nongeographical divisions and has jurisdiction over appeals from Alameda, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma Counties.
What Happens During Appellate Review?
If you are convicted of a criminal offense or sentenced to an excessive term of imprisonment in the San Francisco Bay Area, and you wish to appeal the conviction and/or sentence, your appeal would be heard by the First District Court of Appeal. If you are unsatisfied with the appellate court’s decision, the next step would be to request a review by the Supreme Court of California, which is the highest court in the state. Decisions by the Supreme Court are binding on all other state courts and the appeals process usually ends with the Supreme Court’s ruling. However, if your case involves matters having to do with federal law or the United States Constitution, you may be able to petition the Supreme Court of the United States to hear your case. It is important to note that the U.S. Supreme Court is in no way obligated to review any case and the court grants fewer than five percent of the petitions it receives each year.
Grounds for Appeal or Post-Conviction Relief
During a criminal investigation, trial and sentencing hearing, mistakes can be made by the police, prosecution, jury, defense attorney or judge that can change the outcome in a way that significantly affects the defendant, either resulting in a violation of the defendant’s rights, an improper guilty verdict or a punishment that exceeds the maximum penalty required by law. The following are some mistakes of law or legal procedure that, if present in your criminal case, may make you eligible for a criminal appeal or some other form of post-conviction relief:
- There isn’t enough evidence to support a guilty verdict
- The judge handed down an unreasonably harsh sentence
- Newly discovered evidence points towards your innocence
- The judge improperly admitted or failed to exclude evidence
- The prosecutor referred to inadmissible evidence in front of jurors
- You were convicted of a crime under a law that is unconstitutional
- Your defense attorney failed to provide you with competent and effective counsel
- The court did not have jurisdiction over your case
- The judge gave improper instructions to the jury
- The jury engaged in improper communication with counsel
Why Hire a Criminal Appeals Lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area?
In recent years, California has made a significant effort to reform its criminal justice system and provide better protections for those facing criminal charges, as well as those who have been convicted of criminal offenses. Unfortunately, wrongful convictions and excessive prison sentences still occur, and if this happens in your case, an experienced criminal appeals lawyer could be your last hope for avoiding a devastating criminal conviction, a lengthy prison sentence and a permanent mark on your criminal record. At Pat Ford Appeals, we know how difficult it can be to navigate the appeals process on your own after a criminal conviction, especially if you have little to no experience with criminal appeals, which is where we come in. Our San Francisco criminal appeals lawyers specialize in appeals and post-conviction petitions for relief throughout California, and we know what it takes to overturn a conviction on appeal or get a petition for post-conviction relief granted. Pat Ford’s practice is based in San Diego and he represents clients in criminal appeals in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento Metro Area, Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County and San Bernardino.
Consult Pat Ford for Help with Your Appeal
A guilty verdict at trial can be a devastating event for you and your loved ones, but just because you have been found guilty of a crime in the San Francisco Bay Area doesn’t mean your story is over. At Pat Ford Appeals, we know better than anyone that criminal convictions can be overturned and sentences can be reduced, but the process of appealing a conviction or pursuing some other type of post-conviction relief in San Francisco isn’t easy. If you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime in the San Francisco Bay Area due to errors that deprived you of your right to a fair trial, or sentenced to an excessive term of imprisonment under outdated sentencing guidelines, and you believe you have the right to be released from prison, have your sentence reduced or receive a new trial, don’t hesitate to contact Pat Ford Appeals for legal help. San Francisco criminal appeals attorney Pat Ford has been successfully representing clients on appeal and in post-conviction proceedings in the San Francisco Bay Area and throughout California for more than 30 years, and he can help you get the best possible result in your case.