The Essentials of the Appellant’s Brief

Posted on Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 6:34 am    

After a criminal conviction, you don’t have to give up. You have the right to appeal the judgment, and if successful, you may get your conviction overturned. But, keep in mind that the appeals process is difficult, and many who attempt it on their own fail–or miss critical deadlines. An appeal is not a new trial. You don’t present new evidence, the judges don’t hear testimony, and they don’t retry the case. Instead, the judges are there only to decide if some legal error occurred and if that legal error resulted in your unjust conviction or sentence.

For these reasons, you should seek the assistance of an experienced appellate lawyer. Reviewing trial transcripts, searching for potential errors, researching legal technicalities, and writing a convincing brief are skills best gained through consistent appeals experience. At Spolin Law P.C., our track record of success in the appeals process speaks for itself.

Call us today at (310) 424-5816 to schedule your consultation.

An Appellant’s Brief Must Show Harm by Error

At your trial, you were the defendant. But when you appeal your case, you become the appellant. The state becomes the respondent.

As the appellant, you are responsible for showing that your conviction or sentencing was negatively affected by a legal error, either during or before your trial. Your appeals lawyer will write a brief on your behalf to convince the appeals court that your trial was unfair.

The appellant’s brief must be thoroughly researched, clearly written, and meticulously presented. It should give the appellate court an overview of the case, single out the issues that harmed you, and provide reasons why these issues amounted to legal error.

Common grounds for appealing a criminal conviction include:

  • The judge allowed the jury to hear evidence that it should not have
  • The judge wrongly denied a pretrial motion to suppress evidence or to dismiss the charges
  • The judge did not follow the sentencing guidelines or abused their discretion
  • The jury considered factors other than those presented in reaching their verdict
  • The jury convicted you even though the prosecution did not meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime
  • The jury engaged in misconduct during the trial or its deliberations
  • The defense lawyer provided ineffective counsel
  • The prosecutor acted unethically, such as hiding exculpatory evidence from the defense

If one of these errors applies to your case, but you can’t prove that it was prejudicial to you, the court will consider it a harmless error and deny your appeal. For example, you can’t get your conviction overturned just because the judge wrongly allowed one small piece of evidence into the case. You would need to show that this evidence was crucial to the jury’s decision to find you guilty.

The state, or respondent, will file their own brief to attack the arguments your lawyer raised in the appellant brief. Your lawyer has the option of filing a reply brief to address the respondent’s arguments. After an oral argument, where your lawyer and a lawyer for the state will answer questions from the appeals judges, the court will hand down a decision.

If the court grants your appeal, they may reverse the conviction, order a new trial, or schedule a new sentencing hearing. If the appeals court decides against you, you may still appeal to the California Supreme Court. But only cases that present novel or significant issues of law generally make it onto the Supreme Court’s docket.

A Southern California Appeals Lawyer Can Help

If you or a loved one have been unfairly convicted of a crime, it is time to consult with an appeals lawyer. But time is of the essence because you generally cannot file an appeal more than 60 days after the judgment.

At Spolin Law P.C., we will swiftly review your case file to determine if your conviction should be appealed. To schedule your consultation, call us today at (310) 424-5816.


Forgery Charges Dropped Against Innocent Doctor, Spolin Law P.C. Client

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2018 at 5:15 pm    

Earlier this week the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office announced that they are closing the case and declining to prosecute an innocent Spolin Law P.C. client who had been arrested and booked on forgery charges.

The client, a medical doctor, had been arrested and accused of possessing a forged DMV registration sticker, which had been affixed to her car. The charge threatened to derail her medical career; she faced the revocation of her medical license if she had been convicted.

Attorney Aaron Spolin handled the doctor’s case. He gathered evidence about the actual individual responsible for the forged DMV sticker and presented this evidence to the LA City Attorney’s Office. After a hearing on Tuesday afternoon of this week in City Hall in downtown LA, the City Attorney’s Office formally announced that they will not be prosecuting the client or pressing any charges.

As a result, the client can return to her work as a doctor providing care to those in need.

For more information or to speak with an attorney at Spolin Law P.C., contact us at (310) 424-5816.

Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Brion Vibber.


Spolin Law P.C. Gets Two Cases Dismissed in One Day

Posted on Wednesday, December 20th, 2017 at 5:11 pm    

Earlier today Spolin Law P.C. secured the dismissals of two separate cases in Van Nuys Courthouse.

The client had been charged with two drug-related crimes in 2014.  At that time she had pled guilty on both cases, was granted probation, and had agreed to come back to court regularly for court-ordered updates.  However, she then left the state of California without the court’s permission, seeking a better life for herself in Nevada.  Because she had left California and did not show up in court on her check-in dates, the court had ordered a bench warrant for her arrest.  A bench warrant is a warrant seeking a person’s arrest due to a failure to come to court.

Van Nuys Courthouse

Since that time—and despite the warrants—the client had rebuilt her life in Nevada.  She opened a successful business and started a half-way house to help others recovering from drug addiction.  She had turned her life around; nonetheless, she still worried about the open warrants.

The client hired Spolin Law P.C. to represent her on these cases.  While the client remained in Nevada, attorney Aaron Spolin represented her in Van Nuys Superior Court.  Mr. Spolin presented to the judge a number of documents showing the client’s successful rehabilitation and argued for the judge to not only  remove the warrants but also to dismiss the two underlying cases.  This client had proven that she overcame her addiction and deserved the chance to start over with a clean criminal record.

After considering the documents presented and hearing the arguments, the judge granted Mr. Spolin’s request.  He “quashed” the warrants and dismissed both cases.  Under the law used for the dismissals, the former convictions will now be completely removed from the client’s record. As Penal Code section 1210.1(e)(1) states: “the arrest and the conviction shall be deemed never to have occurred.”

The client—who remained outside of California throughout Spolin Law P.C.’s representation—is now free of these former convictions and associated bench warrants.

If you’re accused or charged with a crime in California, call one of our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at (310) 424-5816.