Can You Appeal a Conviction if You Plead Guilty?

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2020 at 7:47 am    

Most criminal cases end when the accused enters a negotiated guilty plea to specific charges. Unfortunately, many people who are completely innocent of wrongdoing end up pleading guilty because they don’t believe they can prove their innocence in court.

However, if you or a loved one pled guilty to a crime despite being innocent, the fight is not necessarily over. You can still file an appeal after a guilty plea, but you will need to demonstrate that the plea itself was not “knowing, voluntary, and intelligent.”

The window for filing an appeal is very short, and there are few exceptions. For this reason, if you are considering an appeal, you need to act immediately. Your lawyer will only have a few weeks to review your case file and show cause to file an appeal after a guilty plea.

With extensive appeals experience and a record of overturning unjust convictions, at Spolin Law P.C., we are ready to help you file an appeal today. Call us at (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation about your case.

Appeal Options After a Guilty Plea

In most cases, a defendant will enter a plea of guilty after reaching an agreement with the prosecutor. This plea agreement will usually contain provisions waiving your right to appeal on certain issues.

The provisions are binding, but in some exceptional cases a judge may be willing to allow an appeal to proceed even if you’ve waived your right to do so.

In general, an appeal filed after a guilty plea might raise the following:

  • The defendant was lied to about the consequences of the plea by his lawyer.
  • The defendant was under mental impairment when he/she took the plea.
  • The defendant was not informed of certain rights by the court.
  • There were other similar issues that relate to the validity of the plea itself.

It’s important to note that you cannot present new evidence in an appeal. The point of an appeal is for the appeals court to check that the trial court gave you a fair proceeding based on the evidence available at the time. Nor can you challenge a guilty plea conviction after based on an improper suppression of evidence, police or prosecutorial misconduct, or if a harsh sentence was issued.

So if you pleaded guilty to a crime, and then later learn of some new exculpatory evidence, your best option may be to file a writ of habeas corpus.

New California Laws Can Reduce Sentences after a Guilty Plea

Recent changes to California law make it easier for people to obtain sentence reductions after a guilty plea. These do not involve overturning the case but, rather, involve asking for a reduced sentence based on a new law or based on the behavior of the client after conviction.

Senate Bill 1437 changed the state’s definition of felony murder, so that only a major participant in the underlying felony can be convicted of murder for a death that resulted from that felony. The bill specifically allows people who pleaded guilty to receive a reduction or cancellation of their felony murder sentence.

Another law, Senate Bill 2942 actually allows you to by-pass the appeals process to obtain a modification or cancellation of your sentence. This law gives District Attorneys the possibility of requesting a resentencing hearing if they believe your sentence doesn’t serve the interests of justice. Additionally, you may file a petition to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and request a resentencing.

How a California Appeals Lawyer Can Help

If you felt compelled to plead guilty to a crime that you did not commit or that you entered an invalid guilty plea, you may still have options. California law gives you the option of withdrawing your guilty plea, appealing your conviction, pursuing a writ of habeas corpus, or petitioning the CDCR for a resentencing hearing. Regardless of what remedy best applies to your case, the assistance of an experienced appeals lawyer will be essential.

For a free consultation about your options after pleading guilty to a crime, call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation.


Spolin Law Hires Former Prosecutor Caitlin Dukes to Join Criminal Appeals Practice

Posted on Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020 at 11:34 am    

Spolin Law is happy to announce the hiring of Caitlin Dukes, a former prosecutor with a background working on both sides of the criminal courtroom.

Ms. Dukes, a former Deputy District Attorney, also has experience working in federal and state courts, including for Federal District Court Judge James Knoll Gardner and for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Judge J. Michael Eakin. Prior to working in the courts, she spent time working for the United States Department of Homeland Security, assisting in the implementation of Presidential Policy Directive 8 for National Preparedness under President Barack Obama.

Spolin Law Attorney Caitlin Dukes

Attorney Caitlin Dukes

As a prosecutor, Ms. Dukes handled hundreds of felony and misdemeanor criminal cases, including multiple jury trials. She brings to Spolin Law her experience described above, as well as other experience working on the defense side, representing wrongfully accused criminal defendants as an Assistant Public Defender and then as a successful private defense attorney.

Ms. Dukes is admitted to practice law in California, New York, and Pennsylvania.

For more information about Ms. Dukes or any of the attorneys at Spolin Law, call our office at (310) 424-5816.


Will I Be Released if I Win My Appeal?

Posted on Friday, January 17th, 2020 at 7:45 am    

If you’ve been convicted of a crime in California, filing an appeal could be your key to freedom. But the process isn’t as straightforward as you may think. One of the most common questions we get from our clients is: “Will I be released if I win my appeal?”

Unfortunately, the answer is often no. Although it is possible to obtain a provisional release from prison or jail while the appeal is pending, the final appeal order doesn’t usually make release permanent. In most cases, the appeal will order the trial court to give you a new trial or sentencing hearing–and if you’re successful in those proceedings, you can be permanently released from incarceration.

The appeals process moves fast in California. The success of an appeal typically depends on your lawyer’s ability to identify a serious error in your trial, quickly develop a legal argument in your favor, and effectively present it to the appeals court.

At Spolin Law P.C., we are highly experienced appeals lawyers and our team has a proven track record of success in the California appeals process. For a free consultation about your appeal options, call (310) 424-5816 today.

Can I Be Released While My Appeal Is Pending?

California law gives criminal defendants the right to request their release while their appeal is pending. This enables them to avoid the hardships of jail and to spend time with their family while the justice system ultimately decides their fate.

According to California Penal Code section 1272.1, a court must release you on bail if you and your attorney can provide evidence that:

  • You are not likely to flee
  • You are not a danger to other people or to the community, and
  • The appeal raises a substantial legal issue

If the court grants your motion, they may temporarily release you on your own recognizance or set bail. If the bail they set is too high, your attorney can file a separate motion to request a lower amount. Succeeding in this motion is extremely important, because the appeals process can sometimes last up to two years.

A Successful Appeal Usually Results in a Retrial

The specific benefit you receive from a successful appeal depends on the legal arguments raised by your lawyers. The process and results will be significantly different depending on whether your lawyer files a standard appeal or a writ of habeas corpus. A habeas corpus petition will focus on obtaining your freedom directly, but an appeal is more complex.

Your appeal can result in the following outcomes:

  • Denial — In this case, your initial trial verdict and judgement remain in place and you’ll have to serve the rest of your sentence.
    Remand for retrial — If the appeals court concludes that the trial judge made a mistake in your case that caused an unfair disadvantage, they’ll order a new trial for you. This gives you a new chance to prove your innocence or to negotiate a better plea bargain.
  • Remand for resentencing — If the prejudicial error happened at the sentencing stage, then the appeals court will order a new sentencing hearing. You cannot undo your criminal conviction, but you can argue for a more lenient sentence.
  • Reversal and acquittal — In some cases, the appeals court may find that the evidence against you was legally insufficient for the judge or jury to find you guilty. In this case, the appeals court may reverse the judgement and vacate your conviction. This is the only scenario where an appeal directly results in your release.
  • Call a California Appeals Lawyer Today

    If you want to learn more about the appeals process, you should act fast and call a California appeals lawyer. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you only have a limited time to file an appeal. Once the deadline passes, you will typically not be able to file an appeal–although a lawyer may be able to file a writ of habeas corpus on your behalf. Winning the fight for your freedom after a conviction is never easy, but it can be done.

    Call Spolin Law P.C. today at (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation about reversing a California criminal conviction.


Firm Files Petition with United States Supreme Court on Noteworthy Case

Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2019 at 8:00 am    

Spolin Law has filed a petition in the United States Supreme Court, in Washington D.C., on a noteworthy case that implicates major Constitutional issues.

The October 2019 filing, termed a petition for writ of certiorari, seeks to have the court accept the case and overturn the conviction of the firm’s client, whose rights were violated in the course of his trial. If the court rules on the side of client, the decision will affect criminal defendants throughout the United States in both state and federal courts.

United States Supreme Court

Spolin Law’s petition to the United States Supreme Court discusses the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. Interior photo of the court is courtesy of uscourts.gov

The primary issue presented to the United States Supreme Court was whether an attorney for a criminal defendant may subsequently represent a witness against his former client. The issue relates to the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The Sixth Amendment, as interpreted by prior case law, guarantees criminal defendants the right to the “effective” assistance of a lawyer. An attorney whose representation falls below the standards articulated by the courts will be considered ineffective, thus violating the client’s Constitutional rights.

In the present case, a lawyer represented a criminal defendant while simultaneously representing a witness who was slated to testify against the defendant. Once the lawyer realized that he was representing both parties, he withdrew from representation of the defendant but continued to represent the witness. By that time the attorney had received hundreds of pages of discovery and had numerous confidential conversations with the defendant, including material that the witness could have used to conform his testimony to other evidence in order to make it more believable. The witness—a convict himself—had agreed to testify against the defendant in exchange for the prosecution’s dismissal of a separate attempted murder charge against the witness.

Aaron Spolin, who is admitted to practice in front of the United States Supreme Court, submitted the petition and is the primary attorney on the case.

To contact the firm about a criminal appeals or post-conviction matter, call us at (310) 424-5816.


Spolin Law’s Firm Manager, Dionne A. Parker, Wins the 2019 Client Service Award

Posted on Thursday, December 5th, 2019 at 5:00 pm    

Dionne A. Parker, Spolin Law P.C.’s law firm manager, has won the firm’s 2019 Client Service Award. The award, which comes with a $300 cash prize, was created to recognize members of the Spolin Law team who go above and beyond in their efforts to serve clients.

Dionne A. Parker

Numerous clients and other firm members have specifically singled out Ms. Parker for praise over the course of the past year. While she has a difficult workload—operating the administrative nerve center of the firm—she strives to make sure that each client knows how important his or her case is to the firm. This includes returning phone calls promptly, providing relevant case documents, communicating with court clerks and other agencies, and carrying out whatever other steps are necessary to assist the lawyers assigned to the case.

While Ms. Parker serves solely in a non-legal capacity at Spolin Law, she also happens to be a licensed attorney admitted to the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and United States Supreme Court bars.

Prior to joining Spolin Law, Ms. Parker served as an attorney at a prominent Washington D.C. law firm. She was also the Associate General Counsel for the National Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, an international nonprofit organization.

If you would like to nominate a firm member for the 2020 Client Service Award, please contact us via phone or email.

To learn more about the firm and the type of work we do, feel free to contact one of the firm’s attorneys at (310) 424-5816 or contact@spolinlaw.com.


Using New Evidence on Appeal

Posted on Sunday, November 24th, 2019 at 5:50 am    

Pursuing an appeal to overturn a criminal conviction in California can be based on various legal arguments. But, unfortunately, it usually can’t depend on the presentation of new evidence.

Appeals are not a “do-over.” Your legal counsel won’t be allowed to re-litigate the matter by bringing new witnesses or other new evidence. Instead, the Appeals Court will determine if any legal errors were made that would necessitate setting aside the conviction and sending it back to the trial court for reconsideration.

The experienced criminal appeals attorneys at Spolin Law, P.C. can pursue all your legal options at a state level and in federal court to protect your constitutional rights. To learn how to best appeal your case, contact our Los Angeles attorneys for a free consultation by calling (310) 424-5816 today.

Legal Arguments on Appeal

Although an appeal can’t be won on “new evidence,” what you can do is find legal arguments to make a valid appeal. The more arguments that indicate rules and procedures weren’t followed, or judge misinterpreted the law , the better chance the appeals court will find an error and send it back to the trial court.

Depending on how significant the errors are, the trial court could be required to conduct a new trial. At that point, additional new evidence and witnesses could be brought.

Some arguments on appeal that deal with evidentiary issues are:

  • Failure to disclose exculpatory evidence – Criminal procedure rules and the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires prosecutors to disclose any exculpatory evidence (anything that could show the defendant is not guilty) to the defense before trial. In other words, this is evidence that might be “new” to the defense. Failure to turn over such evidence is a serious violation of your rights, and if this occurred, your case for overturning your conviction is strong.
  • Improper exclusion of a witness – If the trial judge wrongly excludes a witness that your trial attorney wanted for your defense, you may have a right to go back to the trial court to get their testimony into the record.
  • Actual Innocence – The appeals court won’t accept new evidence, but if you can show evidence in the court record of actual innocence was ignored, or the weight of the evidence was against conviction, you might have a successful appeal. Also, if new evidence of actual innocence is found after the time limit to appeal expires, you may be entitled to pursue a “writ of habeas corpus.”

Pursuing a Writ of Habeas Corpus

Depending on your circumstances, you may find pursuing a writ of habeas corpus necessary. Unlike the rules for appeals, the writ process usually allows for arguments on issues outside the court record. In other words, mistakes stemming from your arrest, pre-trial, and trial that are in the court record can be brought up on appeal. But the pursuit of a writ allows for evidence outside the record.

A writ of habeas corpus, which in Latin means “produce the body,” is used to challenge your incarceration. The writ requires the state to show lawful grounds for your detention. It often alleges a violation of constitutional or statutory rights.

New evidence can be presented in a writ action.

Let Us Help with Your Appeal

Our appellant law firm has a record of success finding errors that benefit our clients. While we can’t use new evidence on appeal, we can find and make all the legal arguments that could win you a chance at a new trial where such evidence can be presented. Our attorneys, led by firm founder and former prosecutor Aaron Spolin, have achieved positive outcomes on a wide variety of criminal and appellate cases.

Contact us today at (310) 424-5816 for a free case consultation.


What’s the Timeframe for Criminal Appeals in California

Posted on Saturday, November 9th, 2019 at 5:49 am    

Under most state and federal laws, a criminal conviction isn’t necessarily the end of the road. You still have options, and if you believe you were wrongly convicted, a criminal appeal should be pursued. But it’s essential to understand the process, including how long an appeal can take.

To protect your legal rights and for the best possible outcome, you need an experienced appeals attorney. The Southern California criminal appeals law firm, Spolin Law, P.C., understands the process and how to effectively argue on your behalf.

To discuss all your appeal options, contact us today at (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Timeline for Appeals

The criminal justice system is not only controlled by laws, but also by rules and procedures. The rules of criminal procedure set forth how criminal trials are conducted, so they are fair and protect your rights.

If there is a conviction, there are also rules that apply to appeals. These rules establish deadlines by which certain actions must be taken.

For example, after a criminal conviction in the Superior Court of Orange County, you must file:

  • Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the date of the judgment or order if a misdemeanor.
  • Notice of Appeal — Felony (Defendant)” within 60 days of the date of the judgment or order if a felony.

There are some appeal options with longer deadlines, and a court might be willing to accept a late notice of appeal depending on extenuating circumstances.
Failure to file your notice of appeal by the appropriate deadlines could mean that no matter how strong your case is to overturn your conviction, you may not be allowed to proceed. That’s why it is vital to seek legal help with one of our appeals attorneys.

Such quick deadlines to file a notice of appeal might suggest the appeals process won’t take long. But that is likely not the case. Once a notice to appeal is filed, a lawyer can request more time from the court to thoroughly review your case so that we can make all the arguments we find to win your appeal.

After Filing Your Notice of Appeal

After we file your Notice of Appeal, we can file motions for bail or release. If you meet certain criteria, the law gives you the opportunity to be released with or without bail pending appeal of your conviction.

Winning your release pending appeal is important because appeals cases can take one to two years to resolve. By being free during that time, you may be able to resume working and caring for your personal matters while your legal issues are resolved.

While your appeal is ongoing, we will be working on the legal arguments that could result in a successful result. We do this by scouring the record, including the transcripts of your criminal trial. As part of the appeals process, the Superior Court must compile and turn over transcripts of the court reporter and clerk. All documents and exhibits from those proceedings also must be given to your appeals counsel.

After a review of the record where we will find your grounds for overturning your conviction, we will file an “Opening Brief” to explain to the court the reason for your appeal. This is a lengthy procedure, and it’s important you stay in contact at every step in the process.

The prosecution is then allowed to respond. After that, we may have an additional filing, called a “Reply Brief,” which must be filed within so many days of the prosecution’s response.

Once the briefing of your case is completed, we may have an oral argument before the court, and then the court will decide the case. If we aren’t satisfied with the resulting decision, there are additional options, and all of these have deadlines as well.

Don’t Delay if You Need Help with an Appeal

Appealing your criminal conviction is a complex matter that requires experienced attorneys. If you fail to meet certain deadlines, you may not have a chance to appeal and be stuck with the consequences of your conviction. Those consequences could include incarceration, fines, and a permeant criminal record.

To understand your options for appeal and how long it could take, contact Spolin Law, P.C. by calling (310) 424-5816 for a free consultation.


What Does Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Mean?

Posted on Thursday, October 31st, 2019 at 10:53 am    

If your criminal defense lawyer is in over their head or incompetent, you could be convicted where an acquittal or dismissal was possible or even likely. That’s why courts in the United States allow criminal defendants to claim ineffective assistance of counsel–either during or after their trial. When an appeal is made based on the ineffective assistance of counsel, you may be eligible for a retrial. When you make a motion for ineffective assistance of counsel during a trial, the court may allow you to hire a new attorney.

At Spolin Law, P.C., we can help undo the damage done by a subpar criminal defense lawyer. Our California criminal appeals lawyers will review what happened at your trial and determine if an ineffective assistance of counsel claim is possible.

For more information about appealing a criminal conviction for ineffective assistance of counsel, call us today at (310) 424-5816 for a consultation.

The Sixth Amendment Guarantees Your Right to Effective Counsel

The right to legal counsel originates in the sixth amendment to the United States Constitution. The constitution only says you have the right to a lawyer, but the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the right to a lawyer during a trial would be useless if that lawyer were ineffective. In other words, having an incompetent lawyer is a deprivation of your right to due process comparable to having no lawyer at all.

But lawyers–even the best ones–sometimes make mistakes. And since many of these mistakes are harmless, it wouldn’t make sense for a court to grant a new trial every time a defendant’s lawyer made a bad call. For this reason, the Supreme Court has developed a test for determining if a defendant has been the victim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, the test requires two elements.

First, the defendant must show that their lawyer’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. If your lawyer commits an obvious lack of discretion or performs an act or omission that they cannot adequately explain, then they may have fallen beneath this standard. But if your lawyer can reasonably explain that what they did was part of their strategy, then the court will generally not second guess them–even if their strategy was flawed.

Second, you need to show that your attorney’s failures caused significant prejudice to you. This requirement is met only when the court finds that there is a reasonable probability that, if your lawyer hadn’t made the mistake, the case outcome would have been different. This means that you need to show that your lawyer’s incompetence was the primary reason why you were convicted–as opposed to the strength of the prosecution’s evidence against you.

You Need to Show That Your Lawyer’s Mistakes Caused a Bad Outcome

There could be several instances where your lawyer might have made a mistake, but it still wouldn’t count as ineffective assistance of counsel. For you claim to succeed, you need to demonstrate that your lawyer did something that no reasonable lawyer would do, such as:

  • Failing to challenge unlawfully obtained evidence
  • Failing to object to inadmissible evidence or testimony
  • Missing deadlines for motions
  • Failing to motion for the dismissal of a proceeding when the prosecution is clearly lacking enough evidence to convict you

You can make a motion for ineffective assistance of counsel during your trial if you feel that your lawyer is not performing their duties. Alternatively, after your trial and conviction, you can file an appeal on this basis. Usually, you only have 30 days to appeal a misdemeanor conviction and 60 days to appeal a felony. But there are other appeal options with longer deadlines, and if you had ineffective counsel at trial, a court might be willing to accept a late notice of appeal. For instance, if your trial lawyer did not tell you about the possibility of appealing, or told you they were appealing but then didn’t follow through, the appeals court may be willing to accept a late notice of appeal.

If the court grants your ineffective counsel motion during the trial, the court may appoint–or you may choose–a new lawyer, who may then request a new trial depending on how much damage to your case was done. If the court of appeals grants an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel, the court may vacate your conviction and grant a new trial. If the ineffective assistance of counsel occurred during sentencing, they may grant a new sentencing hearing.

A Los Angeles Criminal Appeals Lawyer Can Help

Many defendants fail to take advantage of the many rights afforded by the criminal justice process. If you feel that your lawyer has been falling short of their duties, or that for any other reason your trial did not unfold fairly, you may have a basis for filing an appeal. Even if you are no longer in a position to file an appeal, you may be able to take alternative post-conviction action such as filing a writ of habeas corpus.

To learn more about your options for overturning a California criminal conviction, call Spolin Law, P.C. today at (310) 424-5816.


Jury Instruction Errors & When to Appeal

Posted on Friday, October 25th, 2019 at 10:51 am    

Jury deliberations are meant to be private, but if the jurors are given improper instructions, they won’t be able to reach a fair verdict. If the judge tells the jury the wrong legal standards to apply or to consider inappropriate evidence, they may find someone guilty when they should have reached the opposite conclusion. As a result, jury instruction errors are a common reason for appealing criminal convictions.

A criminal conviction is not necessarily final. You can appeal a conviction, but the clock starts ticking as soon as your sentence is issued. In most cases, you have only 30 to 60 days to file an appeal, but as we’ll discuss, there are some exceptions. If you or a loved one has recently been convicted of a crime, an appeal may be the only way to avoid devastating criminal penalties.

For a consultation with a Los Angeles criminal appeals lawyer, call Spolin Law, P.C. at (310) 424-5816 today.

Bad Jury Instructions Can Ruin Your Chance at a Fair Trial

When a jury decides criminal cases, the judge’s role is essentially to control what happens in the courtroom. This means ensuring that the jury understands the legal standards, hears only admissible evidence, and prevent improper arguments from the prosecution or defense. When a judge fails in this role, you may file an appeal if you can show that the judge’s failures negatively affected the outcome of your case.

The most common reasons for appealing a criminal conviction are

  • improper introduction of evidence or testimony,
  • insufficient evidence to support a conviction,
  • and improper jury instructions.

The judge issues their jury instructions at the end of a trial, once the prosecution and defense have presented all of their evidence and arguments. The judge instructs the jury about the factual elements of each offense, what evidence they should consider for each issue, and how much evidence is needed to prove the elements.

If the jury receives improper instructions, it’s likely they will not reach the correct verdict. In this case, you can and should appeal. If you get convicted of a felony, you have 60 days to appeal. If the conviction was for a misdemeanor, you have only 30 days. But if you miss these deadlines, you may still be able to appeal if you can show that the trial attorney failed to perform their duties relating to the appeal, or that you constructively filed your appeal within the time limits.

California Makes Some Exceptions to the Appeal Deadline

California Penal Code section 1240.1 requires your defense lawyer to give you “advice as to whether arguably meritorious grounds exist for reversal or modification of the judgment on appeal.” This means that if your lawyer failed to tell you about the possibility of an appeal, you may still be able to file after the deadline. What‘s important is that you file as soon as possible after learning about your right to appeal.

Similarly, if you ask your lawyer to file an appeal, and they fail to do so in time, your right to file an appeal is generally preserved. Finally, in felony cases and contested probation revocation hearings, the judge is required by Rule 4.470 of the California Rules of Court to notify the defendant of the possibility of filing an appeal. The bottom line is that if you were never informed of your right to appeal, an appeals court will probably let you file late.

Another way to file an appeal after the deadline is to show a constructive filing. This usually happens if you try to file an appeal from prison by mail, and your appeal doesn’t make it to the court on time. But as long as you can show that you asked the jail or prison to mail your notice of appeal before the deadline, the court will consider that you constructively filed on time–even if your notice arrives late.

You may also benefit from the doctrine of constructive filing if you are representing yourself. The court will generally be more lenient in such cases. For example, if you send a notice of appeal on time, but to the wrong court, you may get extra time to send it to the correct court. Also, if a court officer or administrator gives you misleading information about your right to appeal and how to file, the court will take this into account and could grant you an extension.

If You Miss the Deadline, There May Be Appeal Alternatives

The appeals process is not the only way to overturn a criminal conviction. If you miss the appeals deadline, you can look into filing a writ of habeas corpus, which is a formal challenge to illegal detention. If successful, this legal action will have a similar effect to an appeal. But the difference is that there is a different and vague time limit on filing, and you can present new evidence when prosecuting your writ of habeas corpus.

Contact Spolin Law P.C.

Remember that your fight is not over when the judge hands down your sentence. At Spolin Law P.C., we will review the trial judge’s jury instructions for errors and be by your side at every step of the appeals process. Alternatively, if new evidence comes to light regarding your case, we may be able to file a habeas corpus writ on your behalf.

Call Spolin Law, P.C. today at (310) 424-5816 for more information about your options for overturning a California criminal conviction.


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.