Criminal Appeals: What’s Abuse of Discretion?

Posted on Thursday, August 27th, 2020 at 11:36 am    

Criminal Appeals: What's Abuse of Discretion

When a case goes to trial, the court has some leeway in how they decide certain issues. If they fail to decide the matter in a legally valid way, this could be an abuse of its discretion and you may be able to get the court’s decision overturned.

A criminal appeal in California is challenging, as courts are generally very careful about their protocols. But mistakes happen, resulting in inappropriate evidence being admitted, overly harsh sentences, and wrongful convictions.

If you believe that a legal mistake led to your or a loved one’s current situation, you need an experienced appeals attorney with a history of success in the criminal appeal process. Let Spolin Law, P.C. review your case file, find any errors, and fight to have incorrect decisions reversed.

Start your appeal today. Call (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation with Spolin Law, P.C.

Appeals: Defining Discretion

Discretion is the flexibility given to the court or judge in your case to make decisions based on circumstances, legal precedent, and their own judgment. This is a fairly vague legal concept, but it usually covers very specific decisions made by judges in criminal cases.

When judges act outside the scope of their authority, base decisions on biased views, or misinterpret the law, it can be considered an abuse of discretion.

Some common examples of abuse of discretion are:

  • Not allowing a certain witness to testify
  • Showing bias toward the accused
  • Making flawed rulings on evidence that stifle one side’s rights
  • Influencing the jury to reach a certain verdict
  • Sentences that are far too harsh for the offense

When Abuse of Discretion Occurs

How do you know when abuse of discretion occurred?

This is a hard question to answer definitively since discretion is based on individual judgment. And like most appeals, proving that a legal error happened can be an uphill battle. However, the court does not have to prove that they were correct or fair in their judgment. Instead, you only have to establish that they abused their discretion.

For an appeal court to rule that a lower court abused its discretion, and subsequently denied you a fair trial, you must show that the judge’s decision was so obviously against the evidence and reason that it violated your right to a fair trial.

An appeal based on abuse of discretion can have several possible outcomes. If successful, the appeal court may reverse the trial court’s judgment. If you prove that an abuse of discretion occurred but not that it kept you from receiving a fair trial, the appeal court may comment on the error but not overturn the decision. In addition, if you fail to prove an abuse happened, the appeal court will uphold the trial court’s original decision.

Abuse of Discretion: Standard of Review

Standard of review refers to the grounds on which you request a review of your trial court decision. It is not enough to say that you disagree with the decision and ask for an appeal, nor is it enough to state that the trial was unfair or erroneous.

The appellate court is very limited in what it can look at in an appeal, which is why you and your attorney must choose the correct standard.

Other standards of review include the substantial evidence and de novo standards. Substantial evidence is when the trial court’s decision is not backed up by sufficient evidence. The de novo standard is appropriate when the issue stems from a legal issue, allowing the appellate court to evaluate the case as if the trial court had never ruled on it.

Contact Spolin Law for Help

The court is often slow to overturn decisions, and you have a demanding burden to prove an abuse of discretion occurred. But if you think there’s a chance that such an abuse happened in your case or that of a loved one, you should contact Spolin Law P.C. and speak to an experienced criminal appeals lawyer as soon as possible.

Working with an attorney with a background and history of success in appeals can give you clarity into your case and confidence in your argument. This could result in receiving a lighter sentence, a new trial, or even your freedom.

To find out more about appealing your case, call (310) 424-5816 or reach out online to schedule a free case evaluation.