What Happens If You Lose an AppealPublished on May 22, 2021
With the recent introduction of new laws and the revision of old ones, the chances of winning a criminal appeal in the state of California have slowly been on the rise. Reaching a record 20% success rate, now is as good a time as ever to pursue appellate action and achieve the fair result you deserve.
Despite this hopeful incline, however, the reality of it is that many appeals are not granted. But losing an appeal doesn’t mean you have to give up your fight for justice. As you will see below, there are many different pathways you can take after a failed appellate petition.
Option 1) Petition for Rehearing: By petitioning for a rehearing, you are asking the court to review the appellate court’s ruling in the search for large legal irregularities such as a major misstatement of fact or error of law. If you wish to petition for a rehearing, you must do so within 15 days of the official appellate court’s decision. This is a very strict window so it is important that you act fast and enlist the help of a proper legal team.
Option 2) Petition for Review by Supreme Court: While not as common, if you lose your appeal, you do have the option to challenge the decision in hopes of taking your case to the Supreme Court. However, it is important to recognize that the Supreme Court has the authority to turn away any cases they do not want to review. Furthermore, the granting of such review is typically reserved for cases regarding legal issues that are of great importance or those that have never come before the courts.
Because an appellate court decision becomes final within 30 days of its release, the state enforces a strict 10 day deadline to submit this request for review by the Supreme Court.
Option 3) Pursue other types of Post Conviction Relief: A Writ of Habeas Corpus, for instance, is a common type of post conviction relief that is available to those who have exhausted all other appeal options, and may offer hope to someone who just received an undesired appellate decision. Furthermore, unlike the other two options, writs of habeas corpus do not come with a strict submission deadline and you have a little more leeway in terms of when you want to file.
However, before you proceed with a Writ of Habeas Corpus, you must make sure you are eligible for this type of post conviction relief. Some common grounds for such an appeal include ineffective assistance of counsel, jury misconduct, judicial misconduct, violation of due process, prison conditions that violate civil rights, or lack of speedy and public trial. Additionally, with a Writ of Habeas Corpus, new evidence may be introduced if discovered.
However, successfully arguing Habeas Corpus relief is no easy feat and it can be extremely difficult if you don’t have a strong team of appellate lawyers on your side. We recognize that this may be your last chance at relief and are prepared to treat your case with care and passion. Aaron Spolin has filled countless Writs of Habeas Corpus and has been consistently recognized for his work in this area of law. With guidance of Aaron and his experienced legal staff, fighting an unsuccessful appeal isn’t as daunting as it may seem.
How do you find a case in the Texas Court of Appeals?Published on May 14, 2021
In most cases, civil and criminal court proceedings are public record. Whether you are a defendant checking the status of your case, an attorney researching the details of a trial, or simply someone looking to browse, all the information you need is at the touch of your fingertips.
On March 2, Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas would reopen 100%, effective immediately. Now, as state courts start to reopen and postponed trials are finally receiving court dates, knowing how to find cases in the Texas Court of Appeals will become an ever important skill that can help you stay up to date with the details of a case.
The first step in searching for a case is locating the docket number that has been assigned to that case. Defendants can find this number on their case documents.
Those who don’t have access to these documents can find the docket number by reaching out to the local court clerk. As long as you can provide the party’s name and the county where the case is being heard, a court clerk can quickly access the number for you.
Once you have identified the correct docket number, you can use it to search for the case on the Texas Court of Appeals’ website. To complete the search, input the number into the section titled “appellate case #” at the top of the screen and press the button that says “find my case.” The website will then prompt you to fill out a page of case information, including the county, type of offense, the filing date etc., to help narrow the search.
After you have this completed, the site will compile a list of cases that fit the criteria. Once you find your case, you will be able to click on it and find the basic details of the case such as the parties and attorneys involved as well as any important dates related to the case. Additionally, you will have access to all court materials involved in the case, including hearings, filings, decisions etc.
What are some alternative ways to search for Texas appellate cases?
While using a docket number is the easiest way to find a case, there are other ways to access such information. Many websites, like Findlaw or Justia, offer free, online access to all Texas Appellate Court decisions. When using these sites, a docket number is not required to locate a case. All you need are the names of the parties involved or the name of the county court.
You can also use case law databases to find case information. Programs like Google Scholar allow you to browse for cases by subject, location, or year.
Making use of these available resources to track down cases will allow you to stay organized and well informed on the details of a case. Doing so will ease the appellate process and may help produce a more favorable outcome.
What does it mean to appeal a conviction?Published on May 7, 2021
If someone is convicted in the state of Texas, they reserve the right to challenge their unfavorable conviction by filling an appeal. In doing so, they request that the decision made by the lower court be reviewed by a higher court for any errors. If the appeal is granted, the conviction may be overturned or the case may be remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.
However, it is important to note that not all cases can be appealed. Filing an appeal does not give the petitioner the chance to simply retry their case or present new evidence. Rather, the Texas Court of Appeals was established to examine whether a legal mistake was made during the defendant’s original court proceedings that may have impacted the outcome of the trial.
When determining if such an error was made, the appellate court reviews the court reporter’s transcript (which entails a record of all oral proceedings), the clerk transcript (a collection of the trial’s exhibits, motions, documents), as well as the arguments presented by the appellate attorney.
What are the grounds for appeal in Texas?
In Texas, some of the most common and effective grounds for appeal include:
1) False arrest
When arguing “false arrest,” the defendant must prove that their arrest was unlawful and that the arresting officer did not have the authority to detain them. To do so, the defendant may point to a lack of probable cause or the absence of a Texas arrest warrant at the time of their detainment. Additionally, if their arrest was prompted by a search that violated Texas search and seizure laws, the defendant could appeal their conviction under the “false arrest” statute.
2) Improper admission or exclusion of evidence
Before a trial begins, the presiding judge holds a meeting with the attorneys to review the evidentiary exhibits and decide which pieces are going to be allowed to be used in court and which ones are to be excluded.
It is during this process that the judge can mistakenly admit a piece of evidence that should have been excluded or, in contrast, reject a piece of evidence that should be allowed to be presented in court. The improper admission or exclusion of evidence is likely to have a great impact on the verdict of the trial and hence is an advantageous ground on which to appeal a Texas criminal conviction.
3) Ineffective assistance of counsel
In some cases, the defendant’s legal counsel may be the one at fault. When one appeals on the grounds of “ineffective assistance of counsel,” they must prove that their attorney’s poor performance negatively impacted the outcome of their case, depriving them of their 6th amendment right to a fair trial.
4) Jury misconduct
In a jury trial, it is important that the jurors remain impartial and honorable. If, however, the jurors participate in any sort of illegal behavior that impacts the outcome of a case and compromises the defendant’s right to fair trial, “jury misconduct” is another strong argument on which to build an appellate defense. Some examples of jury misconduct include, a refusal to deliberate, performing outside research on the facts of the case, or the purposeful release of information that could threaten the impartiality of the jury.
Texas Felony Sentencing GuidelinesPublished on May 1, 2021
In Texas, felony offenses and their punishments are organized by levels, beginning at capital felonies, then to first degree, second degree, third degree, and state jail felonies, from most to least serious. The charges and consequences of crimes in Texas vary greatly, depending on the defendant’s criminal history, age, and the nature of the offense itself. Texas uses determinate sentencing, meaning the punishment for a crime committed is decided based off of previously set sentencing guidelines.
Capital Felony In Texas
A capital felony is the most serious offense in Texas. This category includes crimes such as capital murder and treason. The punishment for a capital felony depends on the age of the offender and whether or not the state decides to seek the death penalty. If the state does seek the death penalty, the offender faces life without parole or death, whereas if the state does not seek it, the offender faces life without parole. While this applies to the majority of cases, in situations where the offender is < 18 years of age at the time the offense was committed, they are not eligible for life without parole.
First Degree Felony
First degree felonies are the second most serious offenses in Texas. These crimes come with severe punishments but cannot have the death penalty imposed. First degree felonies are crimes such as attempted capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and aggravated sexual assault.
An offender with a clean record will face a sentence of 5 – 99 years or life in prison for a first degree felony. Punishment can also include a fine of up to $10,000. However, aggravated sexual assault is an exception to these sentencing guidelines, with the addition of a 25-year minimum for the victim having been < 6, or < 14 and the felony contained threats of serious bodily harm or death, or the use of a deadly weapon.
One Felony Prior
For a defendant with a prior felony (but not state felony) conviction, the punishment is 15 – 99 years, or life in prison, with the possibility of an additional fine of up to $10,000. For offenders over 18 years old who are on trial for certain sexual assault offenses, if they have prior convictions of certain violent sexual offenses, they will face life in prison without parole.
Second Degree Felony
Second degree felonies include crimes such as aggravated assault, sexual assault, manslaughter, arson, and illegal possession of marijuana (50 – 2,000 lbs).
First-time offenders facing second degree felony charges receive 2 – 20 years in jail, along with in some cases a fine of up to $10,000.
One Felony Prior
A defendant facing a second degree felony charge who has previously been convicted of a felony (not a state jail felony) will be punished for a first degree felony.
Third Degree Felony
Third degree felony offenses are crimes such as stalking, deadly conduct with a firearm, intoxication assault, and possession of a firearm as a felon.
A first-time offender being tried for a third degree felony will face a sentence of 2 – 10 years in prison, and possibly a fine of up to $10,000.
One Felony Prior
Offenders on trial for a third degree felony conviction with one prior felony conviction (not a state jail felony) will face punishment for a second degree felony.
State Jail Felony
The punishments for state jail felonies can vary a lot depending on the offender’s criminal history, but they are still the lowest class of felonies in Texas. Examples of State Jail Felonies include DWI with a child passenger, forging a check, and possession of <1 gram of a controlled substance.
The punishment for a State Jail Felony starts a range of 180 days to 2 years, with an up to $10,000 fine. State Jail Felonies are unique in that offenders are not able to get early release through good behavior or any other way. See How to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor in Texas for more on this. Prior offenses of varying natures means an offender can face a second or third degree punishment for their state jail felony conviction.
Habitual Offenders (all felonies)
If a defendant has had two separate previous felony convictions, the sentence for any felony regardless of degree (except for a state jail felony) that they face will be from 25 – 99 years, or at most, life imprisonment.