Winning Your Appeal

Attorneys Aaron Spolin and Caitlin Dukes

Spolin & Dukes P.C. is led by appeals attorneys Aaron Spolin and Caitlin Dukes.

Winning an appeal requires skillful representation. Spolin & Dukes P.C. forcefully fights for its clients by carrying out the below steps, when appropriate.

  • Find Mistakes and Errors in Trial and Pretrial Hearings: We pour through the record of every single step that occurred in our clients’ cases, including a review of every word that was stated on the record through hearings and trial. Our goal is to find: (1) mistakes made by your trial counsel, (2) improper statements from the prosecutor, and (3) errors made by the judge. Certain mistakes and errors will have violated our clients’ rights, and this leads to strong arguments on appeal.
  • Argue California Law and U.S. Constitutional Law: Spolin & Dukes P.C. is aware of literally thousands of arguments that can be made on appeal. These are based on California statutes and regulations, California “case law,” and United States constitutional law. See the section “Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions” below to learn more about the arguments that Spolin & Dukes P.C. may be able to include in an appeal.
  • Describe Full or Partial Innocence of Client: An appeal is essentially a formal legal request to a judge, who is a human being with compassion. Therefore, we describe how our client is not only legally entitled to win but also (if the facts support it) how the client is actually innocent of all or some of the charges. This presentation of our client as a decent human being can help show how our case is not simply a “technical” legal issue.
  • Seek Client’s Release on Bail During Appeal: Two types of legal motions can allow a client to be released from custody during the appeal. Such a release can be either without a bail requirement or with bail. See the “Getting Released on Bail” section to learn more.

These steps are some of the reasons why Spolin & Dukes P.C. has obtained successful outcomes from the California Courts of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. Attorney Aaron Spolin is available to take appeals anywhere in the state of California. To learn more about how we can fight and potentially win your case, call us for a free consultation at (310) 424-5816.

  1. Winning Your Appeal
  2. Appeal Deadlines
  3. Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Appeal (and Writ) Process
  5. The Importance of the Appeals Lawyer
  6. Offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Filing a Notice of Appeal after Criminal Conviction in California

The deadline to appeal a criminal case comes extremely quickly. Defendants seeking to appeal a conviction or other outcome must contact us immediately. Often we can file a “Notice of Appeal” before the deadline and then ask for a longer period of time to review the entire case and submit the final appeal. However, if the proper notices and motions are not filed on time, the appeal could be automatically lost. This is true even if there is a good basis for the appeal. Therefore, if you wish to file an appeal, it is advisable to contact a lawyer right away so that you do not accidentally miss any deadlines for the case.

To learn more about the urgency of your criminal appeal, and for a free consultation regarding your criminal appeal case, contact Spolin & Dukes P.C. at (310) 424-5816.

Getting Released on Bail During Appeal

Spolin & Dukes P.C. attorneys are able to file “bail and/or release” motions seeking lowered bail or the release of a client who is appealing his or her conviction. CA Penal Code section 1272.1 states that a court must release a convicted defendant on bail if certain criteria are met. If the trial court grants this motion, the client will either be released without bail or given the opportunity to pay bail in exchange for release during the course of the appeal. Release on bail is important because appeals often take 1–2 years. If the trial court denies the release motion or sets bail too high, a similar motion can be filed in the appeals court requesting release or a reduction of bail.

To find out if a bail motion is appropriate in your case, you are welcome to contact the team at Spolin & Dukes P.C.

Criminal Appeal Courthouses in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Courthouse

It’s important to work with an attorney who knows local judges and how the courts operate. Spolin & Dukes P.C. has presented cases at all levels of Los Angeles appeals courts.

Your criminal case may have been originally heard in either the Los Angeles County Superior Court Criminal Division (for state charges) or U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (for federal charges). However, if you were convicted and decide to appeal, your case will be moved to a higher-level appeals court.

Second District Court of Appeal (for Criminal Appeals)

The Courts of Appeal are intermediate courts of review. They exercise mandatory reviews of appealable orders or judgments from a superior court, except where the death penalty is imposed, over which only the Supreme Court may exercise jurisdiction.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal is located in Los Angeles and hears cases in four counties — Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. There are eight Divisions in the Second District with Divisions 1–5, 7, and 8 being located in Los Angeles and handling all matters arising from the Los Angeles Superior Court. Division 6 is located in Ventura and hears matters from the remaining three counties.

The Divisions located in Los Angeles can be reached at the following:

Ronald Reagan State Building
300 S. Spring Street
2nd Floor, North Tower
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Phone: (213) 830-7000

Decisions of the Courts of Appeal are subject to discretionary review by the California Supreme Court.

Some of the busiest Los Angeles courthouses that feed into the Second District Court of Appeal include Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center (CCB), Van Nuys Courthouse, Compton Courthouse, Airport Courthouse (located near LAX airport), Inglewood Courthouse, and Torrance Courthouse.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal (for Criminal Appeals)

If you were convicted of federal crimes in a federal court in Los Angeles, your case can be appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit encompasses several states and territories, including California, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, and Guam. There is more than one courthouse located in that area.

If you appeal a criminal case from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Western Division in Los Angeles, your case is initially heard in Pasadena at the Richard Chambers Courthouse.

The Richard Chambers Courthouse can be reached at the following:

125 South Grand Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91105

Phone: (626) 229-7250

Although there is no right to appeal a decision of the court of appeals to the Supreme Court of the United States, you can request that the Supreme Court review a judgment by petitioning for a writ of certiorari. Decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court are final and binding on all lower state and federal courts.

Some of the Federal District Courts that also feed into the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal include the district courts for the Northern, Southern, and Eastern Districts of California, as well as nearby Western states.

  1. Winning Your Appeal
  2. Appeal Deadlines
  3. Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Appeal (and Writ) Process
  5. The Importance of the Appeals Lawyer
  6. Offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions

The Southern California criminal appeals attorneys at Spolin & Dukes P.C. are aware of literally thousands of arguments that can be made on appeal. Any one argument can result in the overturning of a conviction.

The following list includes some of the most common arguments that we would expect to use in criminal appeals.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Ineffective assistance of counsel refers to a situation where the defendant did not have a good trial counsel. An ineffective assistance of counsel argument will be accepted where the trial counsel was so below the professional standards for counsel that what he or she did was “unreasonable,” and resulted in an unfavorable outcome. For example, a trial counsel’s failure to object to improper testimony could lead to an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

Improper Admission of Character Evidence

California’s rules of evidence generally prohibit evidence about a defendant’s character used to prove that he or she committed a crime. Typically, this means that the prosecution cannot ask witnesses for their opinions about the defendant’s character (for example, is the defendant trustworthy?) or introduce evidence of prior bad acts (for instance, bank records of a hot check).

Improper “Burden Shifting” of the Prosecutor

In a criminal trial, the prosecution has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But sometimes, the prosecution will try to “shift” the burden of proof, suggesting to the jury that the defendant must instead prove his or her innocence. For example, in a homicide trial, the prosecution may argue that the defendant must prove he or she acted in self-defense, even though California law requires that the prosecution disprove self-defense.

Legally Faulty Jury Instructions

At the end of a jury trial, the judge will give the jury instructions about the law and the jury’s role in resolving the case they just observed. Although typically modeled after the Judicial Council of California’s standardized Criminal Jury Instructions, ultimately what instructions a judge gives is up to that judge and the legal counselors in the case. If a conviction is based on faulty instructions provided over the defendant’s objection, then the conviction can be reversed on appeal.

Improper Exclusion of a Witness

Defendants are legally entitled to present evidence, including witness testimony, to the jury in an attempt to prove their innocence or otherwise call into question the charges against them. If a judge improperly excludes a witness who would have testified on the defendant’s behalf, the defendant can appeal that exclusion after trial.

Improper Limitation of Cross Examination

The U.S. Supreme Court has referred to cross-examination as the greatest legal engine for the discovery of truth. In a criminal trial, the defendant’s right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. An appellate court will overturn a conviction if the trial court restricted the defendant’s cross-examination of a witness for no good reason.

Improper Admission of Defendant’s Statement or Confession

Courts are limited in how they can admit out-of-court statements and confessions by a criminal defendant. These limitations stem from a defendant’s right against self-incrimination (described below), right to cross-examine witnesses against him or her, and rules of evidence regarding hearsay. A convicted defendant can challenge his or her conviction if the court allows evidence of a statement or admission that violates those limits.

Denial of Attorney of Choice

The Sixth Amendment protects a criminal defendant’s right to counsel. If the defendant can’t afford to hire counsel, the court hearing his or her case must appoint one. If the defendant can afford to hire counsel, then the court usually must respect his or her choice of counsel. In that event, a defendant can appeal if the trial court refused to let him or her be represented by the counsel of his or her choice.

Improper Denial of Suppression Motion

When the police or prosecution obtain evidence in a way that violates a defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures, the defendant can ask the judge to exclude (or “suppress”) that evidence. For instance, if police find evidence of a crime while searching a suspect’s home without a warrant, that evidence should generally be excluded from trial. If the court fails to do so, that decision can be overturned on appeal.

Insufficient Probable Cause

Before police can obtain a search or arrest warrant in California, they must demonstrate to a judge that they have probable cause to believe that they will find evidence of a crime or that the person to be arrested committed a crime. Probable cause is a low bar, and police can usually satisfy it with ease. However, if there was no probable cause from the outset, then the entire process may be tainted, and an appellate court may reverse any resulting conviction.

Improper Admission of Faulty Line-Up Procedure

In a line-up, police place several individuals in a line and ask a witness to a crime if he or she recognizes any of the individuals as the person who committed the crime. An identification made during a line-up may be especially persuasive to a jury. However, line-ups are often suggestive and can lead to false identifications. In that event, a court’s decision to admit evidence from the line-up can be challenged on appeal.

Violation of Defendant’s Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination

The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from compelling a criminal defendant to be a witness against him – or herself. This protects a defendant from being called as a witness in his or her own case, but it also requires that certain procedures be followed by the police or prosecution in questioning a suspect. Failure to follow those procedures can undercut a conviction’s validity.

Double Jeopardy

The Fifth Amendment also protects defendants against being “twice put in jeopardy of life or limb” for the same crime. That means that the prosecution can’t try to convict a defendant for a crime after a jury acquits him or her and can’t try to increase a defendant’s sentence by trying him or her again for the same crime following conviction.

Violation of Speedy Trial Right

The California Constitution and U.S. Constitution both guarantee a criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial. This right ensures that a person charged with a crime receives a trial within a reasonable amount of time after being arrested or charged. Otherwise, the case against the defendant should be dismissed, and failure by the trial court to dismiss can be appealed if the defendant is convicted.

Judge Incorrectly Joined Case with Co-Defendant

When two or more people are jointly charged with a crime, California law generally requires that they be tried jointly. However, in some circumstances a joint trial would prejudice the rights of one or more co-defendants, in which case the court should hold separate trials for them. For instance, if one co-defendant has confessed, the co-defendants wish to pursue conflicting defenses, or a co-defendant may provide exonerating testimony at a separate trial, then the trial court should sever their cases.

Denial of Jury Trial

Criminal cases can be decided either by a judge or a jury. But the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution generally requires that a criminal defendant be given a jury trial if he or she wants one. If a judge conducts a bench trial (trial without a jury) or decides critical questions of fact for itself in a jury trial, rather than submitting them to the jury, then the defendant’s right to trial by jury has been violated.

Insufficient Evidence for a Conviction

As noted earlier, the prosecution must prove the state’s case against a criminal defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite a guilty verdict from the jury, an appellate court will overturn a conviction if the evidence presented at trial was actually insufficient to support that verdict.

Defendant was Not Mentally Competent for Trial

A person cannot be tried for a crime while he or she is mentally incompetent. A court will accept this argument if, at the time of trial, as a result of mental disorder or developmental disability, the defendant was unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings or to assist his or her counsel in conducting the defense in a rational manner.

Unconstitutionally Broad Statute Defining Offense

Crimes are defined by statutes. The constitutional guarantee of due process requires that those statutes be clear enough to give people notice of what conduct crosses the line from legal to criminal behavior. If a criminal statute is too broad (i.e., too vague), then a conviction for violating it will be overturned.

Statute Resulting in Conviction Abridged First-Amendment Rights

Statutes can be unconstitutional in other, more obvious ways, such as when they violate the First Amendment. If a criminal law abridges the freedom of speech or of the press, then any defendant prosecuted under the law can challenge it on that basis in the trial court or on appeal.

Judge Improperly Closed Courtroom During Trial

Defendants in a criminal case have a constitutional right to a public trial. That means that the trial must be open to the general public at all times, including during pretrial hearings, unless a court can show that excluding the public was necessary to protect some higher value, such as the right to a fair trial.

Improper Interference with Jury Deliberations

At the end of a trial, the jury will engage in deliberations—private discussions among the jurors to determine what the verdict will be. California law prohibits the judge and the legal counselors in the case from communicating with the jury during deliberations, except that the judge may communicate with the jury in open court following notice to the legal counselors. Failure to follow that rule will lead to reversal on appeal.

Actual Innocence

A convicted defendant can sometimes challenge his or her conviction because he or she is actually innocent. This challenge may be raised in different ways: First, the defendant can argue on appeal that the evidence of guilt at trial was inadequate or evidence of innocence was conclusive. Additionally, the defendant may be able to petition for a writ of habeas corpus (discussed below) if new evidence of innocence is found after the time for appeal has expired.

Sentencing Error by Judge

The punishments that a judge can impose on a person convicted of a crime are determined by law. Unfortunately, judges sometimes impose sentences that are overly harsh compared to what the law allows. If successfully appealed on this basis, the reviewing court will only overturn the sentence, not the conviction.

Charges Were Filed After Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations define how long after an alleged crime occurred a prosecutor can file charges. Different crimes are subject to different limitations periods, ranging from as little as two years to as many as 10. Some crimes do not have a statute of limitations. But for those that do, the trial court should dismiss the charges if they are filed late. Failure to do so gives the defendant grounds for appeal.

Court Lacked Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A court’s subject matter jurisdiction is that court’s power to decide cases of a particular type. In California, the superior courts are courts of general jurisdiction, meaning they can decide most types of cases. But other courts, such as municipal courts, only have jurisdiction over specific kinds of cases. If a defendant is convicted in a court that lacks subject matter jurisdiction over his or her case, then the defendant can appeal that court’s decision on that basis.

Improper Denial of Change of Venue Motion

The venue of a criminal prosecution refers to the geographical location of the court hearing the case, such as a California county or federal judicial district. In general, a defendant is entitled to have his or her case heard in the county or district in which the crime was allegedly committed. If the case is filed in the wrong place, or if the venue is inappropriate for some other reason, the defendant can move for a change of venue. An improper denial of that motion can be appealed.

Speedy Trial Right Violation of P.C. Section 1382

To implement the constitutional guarantees of a speedy trial, the California Legislature enacted section 1382 of the California Penal Code. That section generally sets a deadline for the commencement of trial of 30 days (for misdemeanors) or 60 days (for felonies) after arraignment. If trial does not begin by that deadline, and the prosecution has no good reason for the delay, the trial court should dismiss the charges. Its failure to do so can be challenged on appeal.

Speedy Trial Right Violation of U.S. Constitution, Amendment VI

The California Constitution includes a similar “speedy trial” provision to the U.S. Constitution, but California courts follow a simpler balancing test when determining whether the right under the state Constitution has been violated. As with the federal right, a violation of the right to speedy trial should result in dismissal of the pending charges by the trial court. Otherwise, an appellate court should reverse any resulting conviction.

Speedy Trial Right Violation of California Constitution, Art. I, Section 15

The California Constitution includes a similar “speedy trial” provision to the U.S. Constitution, but California courts follow a simpler balancing test when determining whether the right under the state Constitution has been violated. As with the federal right, a violation of the right to speedy trial should result in dismissal of the pending charges by the trial court. Otherwise, an appellate court should reverse any resulting conviction.

Defendant Improperly Restrained in Front of Jury

In most cases, a criminal defendant should not be restrained (with handcuffs, shackles, or similar devices) in front of a jury, because seeing the restraints may prejudice the jurors against the defendant. Unless a trial judge orders that a defendant be restrained in the jury’s presence based on manifest necessity, such restraints are an abuse of the judge’s discretion and can invalidate a conviction.

Jury Improperly Allowed to See Shackles, Handcuffs, or Jail Clothes of Defendant

Criminal defendants in custody are generally transported to and from the courthouse in handcuffs or shackles and may arrive in their jail-issued clothing. But because the sight of such restraints or jailhouse clothes may prejudice a jury against the defendant, jurors should generally not be allowed to see them. For example, the defendant should be permitted to change into civilian clothing before entering the courtroom. If the jury does see a defendant’s restraints or jail clothes, he or she may be able to challenge any resulting conviction on those grounds.

Defendant was Excluded from Courtroom for Portions of the Trial

A criminal defendant is entitled to be present in the courtroom during his or her trial. Although trial judges are allowed to exclude the defendant from the courtroom in some circumstances (such as for persisting in disorderly conduct after being warned by the judge), if the exclusion was improper, then the defendant can appeal on that basis.

Judge Communicated to Jury Without Defense Counsel Present

To ensure that a judge does not improperly influence the jury, California law requires that the judge not communicate with jurors unless both the prosecution and defense counsel are present. If the judge does communicate with the jury outside the presence of the defendant’s counsel, then the defendant can challenge his or her conviction as invalid because of that communication.

Improper Admission of Confession Following Failure to Give Miranda Warnings

Before a prosecutor can use a defendant’s confession while in police custody as evidence at trial, he or she must prove that the defendant was given Miranda warnings (e.g., “You have the right to remain silent”) before making the confession. These warnings are required by the U.S. Supreme Court to protect criminal defendants’ right against self-incrimination. The defendant can appeal if his or her confession was admitted as evidence despite the lack of such warnings.

A warrant is a legal document signed by a judge authorizing police to search a particular place, seize specified property, or arrest a particular person. To be valid, the warrant must be supported by probable cause and satisfy certain formal requirements. An invalid warrant may invalidate the entire case against a defendant. If the trial court incorrectly refuses to dismiss a case based on an invalid warrant, the defendant can ask an appellate court to review that decision.

Identification procedures are techniques that police use to help witnesses of a crime identify the person they believe committed it. However, when such techniques are unduly suggestive, they can violate a criminal defendant’s right to due process. In addition, the defendant must be allowed to have counsel present during any in-person identification procedures after a case has commenced, such as a line-up. If these rights were violated and the defendant was convicted, he or she can appeal the conviction on that basis.

Denial of Counsel’s Presence at a Critical Stage of Court Proceedings

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant’s right to have the assistance of counsel for his or her defense. The U.S. Supreme Court has explained that this right extends to any critical stages in a criminal prosecution, including certain pretrial proceedings, trial, and some post-trial proceedings. If a defendant was convicted after being denied the right to assistance of counsel at any such stage, then he or she can appeal.

Trial Attorney Had Conflict of Interest

Criminal defense legal counselors owe their clients a duty of loyalty, whether they have been appointed by the court or hired by the defendant directly. If the counsel has a conflict of interest, then he or she should withdraw from the representation. A conflict of interest may exist when legal counsel represents two criminal defendants who may be able to bargain for reduced charges by testifying against the other and in certain other circumstances. A counselor with a conflict of interest cannot provide effective assistance to his or her client, a problem that can result in a conviction being overturned.

Defendant Denied Right of Self Representation

Although representing yourself in court is almost never a good idea, the law gives criminal defendants the right to do so. However, a court does not have to permit a defendant to represent him- or herself if the defendant is not competent. But if the defendant was competent to do so and the court refused to let him or her, that refusal can be grounds for appeal.

Defendant was Unduly Prejudiced by Pretrial or Trial Publicity

Defendants have a right to be tried before an impartial jury. But media coverage of an alleged crime or criminal trial can taint the jury pool and result in a jury that is prejudiced against the defendant. Although the typical remedy for such issues is a change of venue, if a defendant is convicted by a jury that was actually or “reasonably likely” prejudiced against him or her because of pretrial or trial publicity, the defendant can challenge that conviction before an appellate court.

Prosecutor Challenged a Juror Due to Juror’s Race/Gender/etc.

Before a criminal trial, the judge, prosecutor, and defense counsel will work together to select a jury for their case. The judge or attorneys will question a panel of prospective jurors to determine whether they would be suitable to serve on the jury. Both legal counselors are permitted to exercise a limited number of “peremptory” challenges, dismissing jurors without having to give a reason. However, if the prosecution dismisses jurors based on race, ethnicity, gender, or similar characteristics, the defendant can not only challenge that dismissal at that time, but also appeal on that basis if the resulting jury convicts the defendant of the alleged crime.

Judge’s Ruling on Expert Testimony was Incorrect

Prosecutors and criminal defendants often rely on expert testimony to help explain complex facts to the jury and prove their own case or rebut the other party’s. Experts are often uniquely persuasive to jurors, making their testimony critical to proving or disproving guilt. However, to be admissible, expert testimony must satisfy certain prerequisites. If a court admits the prosecution’s expert testimony that fails to satisfy those prerequisites, or rejects the defendant’s expert testimony that does satisfy them, then that decision can be reviewed by an appellate court.

Judge Failed to Give a Required Jury Instruction

At the conclusion of a criminal trial, the judge will provide instructions to the jury, explaining jurors’ role in the case and the rules they should follow when deciding it. Some instructions are always required, and others may be necessary based on the evidence in the case or because of certain events during trial. If the judge is required to give a particular instruction, but fails to do so, then the defendant can appeal that failure if he or she is convicted.

Jury Verdict Form was Improper or Improperly Filled Out

Along with the jury instructions, at the end of trial the judge in a criminal case will give the jury a verdict form, which the jurors will use to render their verdict by finding the defendant guilty or not guilty. However, to support a conviction, the verdict form must satisfy certain requirements. If it fails to, or if the jury made mistakes in filling it out (such as by making conflicting findings), the defendant can appeal his or her conviction.

Prosecutor Committed “Golden Rule” Violation in Argument

A “Golden Rule” argument asks jurors to place themselves in an alleged victim’s shoes or otherwise appeals for sympathy for the victim when determining whether a defendant is guilty. Because such arguments are highly prejudicial and ask the jury to resolve a case based on something other than objective facts as proved by evidence, they are not allowed in a criminal trial. A defendant can seek to overturn a conviction if the prosecutor made a “Golden Rule” argument.

Prosecutor Failed to Disclose Exculpatory Evidence

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution require prosecutors to disclose to a criminal defendant any potentially exculpatory evidence—that is, evidence that tends to prove the defendant is not guilty. Failure to do so taints the entire prosecution and requires that a resulting conviction be reversed.

Prosecutor Failed to Disclose Relevant Information About a Witness

Among the types of exculpatory evidence that prosecutors must turn over to criminal defendants is evidence relating to the credibility of the prosecution’s witnesses. For example, if the prosecutor offered leniency to a witness in exchange for his or her testimony against the defendant, the prosecutor must disclose that offer to the defendant before trial. As with other types of exculpatory evidence, failure to do so may invalidate the defendant’s conviction.

Contact the Southern California criminal appeals lawyers with Spolin & Dukes P.C. to learn more about these arguments and whether they, or others, apply to your case. Our main Los Angeles law firm office line is (310) 424-5816.

  1. Winning Your Appeal
  2. Appeal Deadlines
  3. Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Appeal (and Writ) Process
  5. The Importance of the Appeals Lawyer
  6. Offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Taking a Case to the California Court of Appeals

Spolin & Dukes P.C. files criminal appeals as well as criminal “writs.” This section discusses the appeals process and then goes on to discuss how a writ works.

The Appeal Process

  • Notice of Appeal — This initial document tells the court that an appeal will be filed. Depending on the nature of your case and facts surrounding your need to appeal, this date may vary. A notice of appeal is the first step in the process to get a conviction overturned, so you will need to work closely with your Southern California criminal appeals lawyer to ensure that this document is filed in a timely manner. If it is not filed on time, then you cannot file an appeal.
  • Transcript Preparation — Once you and your attorney submit a notice of appeal, the Superior Court is required to compile two files: the reporter’s transcript and the clerk’s transcript. These records will provide documentation of everything said during your initial case in addition to all other documents and exhibits used during those proceedings. If you or your appellate attorney notice material is missing from these transcripts, you can request to have it added to the appeal record.
  • Opening Brief — This is the first opportunity your attorney will have to explain to the higher court why you’re entitled to an appeal. This proceeding is lengthy in nature, as it includes a thorough review of the initial ruling in your case, court records, and rules and statutes that show the lower court’s errors in your initial trial. Because of the detail required during this step of the process, you must remain in constant communication with your criminal appeals attorney to make sure that all of the necessary information is included.
  • Respondent’s Brief — In a criminal appeal by a defendant, the respondent is the prosecution. Their brief is filed in response to your opening brief, and it is used to illustrate that any legal errors that allegedly occurred were warranted and did not affect the outcome of your original case.
  • Reply Brief — During the appeals process, the burden of proof remains on the defendant. If you need to submit a second brief in response to the brief submitted by the prosecution, your attorney can do so if you desire. In this document, your attorney is not permitted to raise new issues. You are only permitted to respond to the points brought up in the respondent’s brief. There is a time limit for when response briefs must be filed, so make sure to speak with your appellate attorney as soon as you can so you don’t miss this deadline.
  • Oral Argument (sometimes) — An appeal may not take place entirely on paper. The process allows for your attorney to orally defend you in court and present your position to the higher court. These hearings are short, so it is important to not reiterate the facts stated in the briefs; your attorney should instead spend the time explaining the important parts of the brief(s) and answering any questions that arise.
  • Petition for Rehearing — If you aren’t happy with the decision of the higher court, you can request a rehearing. This must be done shortly after the appeal court’s ruling, so speak with your criminal appeals lawyer immediately if you are considering this option.
  • Petition for Review — After an announcement is made by the appeal court, both you and the prosecution can submit a request to the Supreme Court for review of the case. This motion must be acted upon shortly after the appeals court’s decision. You don’t need a petition for rehearing in order to submit a petition for review, but it is required if you wish to challenge the appeals court’s declaration of facts and issues in your appeal.

You can learn more about the appeals process by scheduling a free consultation with Spolin & Dukes P.C.

The “Writ” Process

A “writ” is similar to an appeal except that it usually argues an issue that cannot be argued in a normal direct appeal.

A direct appeal generally cannot reference information that is outside the court record of the trial. Therefore, for example, if a defense attorney made mistakes during trial and the mistakes are in the record, a direct appeal would likely be appropriate; however, if an attorney took inappropriate steps outside of court and his/her mistakes are not in the court record, a writ of habeas corpus may be appropriate.

Common writs include:

  • Writ of Habeas Corpus — This is the most common type of writ, and it is used to challenge the detention and incarceration of an inmate. It is frequently used to raise issues that cannot be raised in direct appeal. Writs of habeas corpus allege a violation of the defendant’s constitutional or statutory rights.
  • Writ of Mandamus — Tells a court or public official to take a particular action.
  • Writ of Prohibition — Tells a court or public official to not take a specific action.
  • Writ of Certiorari — Allows certain appellate courts to hear appeals from lower courts.
  • Writ of Quo Warranto — Permits states to challenge the use of public office(s).
  • Writ of Error Coram Nobis — Permits court to correct a fundamental error that did not appear in the record.

Writs are a powerful tool that can result in a court ordering the immediate release of a defendant, a new trial, further proceedings in lower courts, or any number of other outcomes.

To learn whether a writ may be used in your case, contact a skilled Los Angeles criminal appeals attorney at Spolin & Dukes P.C. by calling (310) 424-5816.

  1. Winning Your Appeal
  2. Appeal Deadlines
  3. Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Appeal (and Writ) Process
  5. The Importance of the Appeals Lawyer
  6. Offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco

The Importance of the Appeals Lawyer

Spolin & Dukes P.C. Logo

The attorneys at Spolin & Dukes P.C. have decades of combined experience in criminal appeals.

The attorney you choose can have a huge impact on the likelihood of success. Spolin & Dukes P.C. is led by Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor and award-winning criminal appeals lawyer.

An excellent appeals attorney can make a difference in several ways:

  • Discovering New Arguments: The ability to discover new arguments is important for a success outcome. At Spolin & Dukes P.C., we work hard to find and raise arguments that other attorneys may have missed.
  • Analyzing the Record: In general, the more thoroughly the appeals attorney reviews the record, the more appeal bases they can find. We spend a significant amount of time looking through our clients’ records to find legal bases for challenging the conviction.
  • Fighting to Win: Spolin & Dukes P.C.’s success rate is based on our forceful desire to win each case we handle. The firm is led by former prosecutor Aaron Spolin (Princeton, BA; UC Berkeley, JD), an award-winning appeals attorney and former member of California Law Review. He has achieved successful outcomes on a wide variety of criminal and appellate cases, including a recent murder case sent to the California Supreme Court.

To learn what appeals options may be available on your case, contact the Los Angeles criminal appeals attorneys with Spolin & Dukes P.C. for a free consultation. We are available at (310) 424-5816.

  1. Winning Your Appeal
  2. Appeal Deadlines
  3. Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Appeal (and Writ) Process
  5. The Importance of the Appeals Lawyer
  6. Offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco

Offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco

We offer a convenient office location in West LA off W. Olympic Blvd. in office #400 near I-405. We also have a location in Mid-Market, San Francisco off Market St. in office #200 near U.S. 101.