How to Win a Criminal Appeal

Attorney Aaron Spolin

Lead criminal appeals lawyer Aaron Spolin has proven strategies that win appeals in state and federal courts.

Winning your appeal requires in-depth knowledge of the law and the criminal appeals process. The award-winning legal team at Spolin Law P.C. has years of experience and considerable success in criminal appeals. We aggressively fight for our clients by using the following steps in appeals cases:

  • Review the Case for Errors — When you hire Spolin Law P.C., we will immediately take steps to get copies of your pretrial and trial transcripts. We will scrutinize your entire case file from start to finish. Through an in-depth review, we will find any mistakes that were made or legal errors. Certain factual and legal mistakes that violate your rights can provide a strong argument on appeal.
  • Develop an Argument Based on State and Federal Laws — Thousands of arguments can be made on appeal. Those arguments must be based on state or federal laws, court procedure, and the U.S. Constitution. If your rights were violated before, during, or after your conviction, we will develop an argument to reverse the court’s decision.
  • Establish Your Innocence — An appeal must balance the legal elements of a factual argument and make an emotional plea to the judge. When you are innocent, we strive to prove you should be immediately released. We may argue that this is not just a technical issue, but a failing of the legal system that is harming an innocent person.
  • Seek Your Release from Imprisonment — In some circumstances, we may be able to argue for your release from jail while your appeal is pending. We understand you want to spend as much time with your family and friends as possible. Our goal is to keep you out of prison.

Spolin Law P.C. takes these steps and more to fight for a successful appeal in court. To learn more about the appeals process, contact criminal appeals lawyer Aaron Spolin and his team at (866) 716-2805.

  1. How to Win a Criminal Appeal
  2. State and Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Effective Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Criminal Appeals Process
  5. The Importance of Working with an Appeals Lawyer

State and Federal Appeal Deadlines

Each state and federal courts often have different deadlines to file appeals. It’s important to file your appeal in a timely manner. Otherwise, you may forfeit your ability to make certain arguments.

Federal Appeal Deadline

The deadline to file a notice of appeal in a federal criminal case comes very quickly. However, that deadline can be extended for good cause or excusable neglect.

Certain post-conviction motions must be decided before the clock to file a notice of appeal runs. A trial lawyer may first file a motion for judgment of acquittal, motion for arrest of judgment, motion for a new trial, or a petition for rehearing. These motions also have deadlines. If the motion or petition for rehearing is not decided in your favor, then we will file a notice of appeal.

State Criminal Appeal Deadlines

Each state also has a deadline within which a criminal appeal must be filed. However, there are exceptions. It’s important to act as quickly as possible when filing a notice of appeal in state courts, including the California Courts of Appeal, New York Appellate Courts, Michigan Court of Appeals, and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

You should contact an appeals attorney immediately upon conviction, even before your sentence is imposed. There are some options that you may be able to file even before an appeal.

Spolin Law P.C. is familiar with all necessary deadlines and ensures our clients meet them. Our goal is to help you get your conviction overturned and minimize your sentence. Call us today at (866) 716-2805.

  1. How to Win a Criminal Appeal
  2. State and Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Effective Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Criminal Appeals Process
  5. The Importance of Working with an Appeals Lawyer

Effective Arguments to Overturn Convictions

We know thousands of potential arguments to support criminal appeals. It’s important to make as many arguments as possible upon appeal. If you fail to include something that might ultimately support your claim, you may forfeit your ability to present that argument at a later date.

Some bases we often use in criminal appeals include:

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

You can argue ineffective assistance of counsel if your defense attorney did such a bad job that it impacted the outcome of your case. You must prove your attorney’s conduct was unreasonable and had your attorney provided effective counsel, then you would not have been convicted.

Improperly Admitted of Character Evidence

Both the California and Federal Rules of Evidence have rules regarding when and how lawyers can submit character evidence. Evidence of a person’s character is not admissible to prove that on a certain occasion, that person acted in accordance with their character or trait. This evidence must fit within a certain exception to be admitted.

Improper Shift of the Burden of Proof by the Prosecutor

During a criminal trial, the prosecutor has the burden of proving you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor cannot shift that burden by suggesting you must prove your innocence.

Improper Jury Instructions

At the end of a trial, the judge reads the jury a set of instructions. These instructions can be modeled on pattern jury instructions, but are up to the judge and the lawyers. If the instructions contain a legal error, such as a missing or improperly included instruction, then we can argue for a conviction to be reversed.

Failure of Judge to Provide Required Jury Instructions

Certain jury instructions are appropriate, some are necessary, and others are required by law. If the judge leaves out required jury instructions, we will appeal the conviction.

Witness Was Improperly Excluded

You are legally entitled to present relevant evidence during your trial, which includes witnesses’ testimony. We will appeal if a judge improperly excluded a witness from the trial who could have testified on your behalf.

Cross Examination Was Improperly Limited

The U.S. Constitution guarantees your right to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses. If the judge restricted your right to cross-examination, we would ask for the conviction to be overturned.

Defendant’s Statement or Confession Was Improperly Admitted

Both your constitutional rights and rules of evidence prevent courts from admitting many out-of-court statements, including many confessions made by a defendant. If a statement you made was admitted to the court, we might appeal on the basis of hearsay or other legal error.

Denied Your Choice of Attorney

You are entitled to have legal counsel during the criminal process, and you are entitled to choose an attorney. When you can hire your own lawyer, you can choose who represents you as long as they are admitted to practice in that court. If you cannot afford to retain a private attorney, the court must appoint a public defender.

Denied Right of Self Representation

It is typically not wise for criminal defendants to represent themselves. However, the law technically gives you the right to do so. If you are competent, the court must allow you to represent yourself. If the judge inappropriately denied your right to represent yourself, then this may be grounds for appeal.

Suppression Motion Was Improperly Denied

Any evidence obtained through or indirectly from illegal means is not admissible in court. For example, evidence obtained through an unreasonable and illegal search and seizure by the police. If the judge fails to exclude illegally obtained evidence, we will ask the conviction to be overturned.

Lack of Probable Cause

The police must have probable cause to obtain a search or arrest warrant. Probable cause is a low threshold. There simply must be enough facts to support the likelihood you committed an offense. But if the police act without probable cause, any resulting evidence is unlawful and inadmissible.

Lack of Sufficient Evidence for a Conviction

The prosecution’s burden is to prove you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden of proof in the court system. There must be no reasonable doubt remaining about whether or not you committed the offense. If we find the prosecution did not present enough evidence to reach this burden, we will ask for the conviction to be reversed.

Faulty Line-Up Was Improperly Admitted

In order for the results of a police lineup to be admissible in court, it must be performed in a certain manner. Any amount of suggestion can lead to a false identification of a suspect. We may challenge a lineup that led to your being charged with the crime.

Defendant’s Fifth Amendment Right Against Self-Incrimination Was Violated

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects you from being compelled to be a witness against yourself during police interrogations and at trial. As a criminal defendant, you cannot be forced to testify at trial. Also, this constitutional right requires the police to adhere to certain procedures when questioning suspects.

Violation of Double Jeopardy

You have the constitutional right not to be tried for the same crime twice. If a jury acquits you of a crime, the prosecutor cannot try to convict you of that crime again.

Violation of Right to Speedy Trial

The U.S. and California Constitutions grant you the right to a speedy trial. Once you are arrested or charged with a crime, the criminal court process must move at a reasonable pace. There cannot be any unnecessary delays in having a trial.

Case Was Incorrectly Joined with Co-Defendant

If you and one or more other persons are charged with a crime together, then you may be tried jointly. However, in some circumstances, a joint trial is not appropriate, and you and your co-defendants should have separate trials. We will appeal your case if being tried with one or more co-defendants prejudiced the jury against you or led to a different legal error in your case.

Jury Trial Was Improperly Denied

You have a constitutional right to a jury trial when charged with a crime. If the judge improperly conducts a bench trial, we will appeal. Also, we will appeal if the judge decides any material questions of fact during your case that should have gone to the jury.

Mental Incompetence

A defendant must be mentally competent to stand trial. If a defendant has a mental disorder or developmental disability that makes them unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings, then they are not mentally competent and cannot be tried for a crime.

Overly Broad Statute Defining Offense Is Unconstitutional

Crimes are defined by state and federal statutes. These statutes must be clear and reasonably limited in the conduct they prohibit. Overly broad and vague statutes are unconstitutional.

Violation of Defendant’s First Amendment Rights

We will ask for your conviction to be overturned if the statute describing the crime violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Improperly Closed Courtroom

You have a constitutional right to a public trial. Typically, criminal proceedings are open to the public unless there is a specific need to exclude the public.

Someone Improperly Interfered with Jury Deliberations

Once the jury is given their instructions at the conclusion of the trial, they are left to deliberate in private. No other party is allowed to communicate with the jury during deliberations, with the exception of the judge who can communicate with the jury in open court after giving the lawyers notice. Any interference with deliberations is the basis for appeal.

Defendant’s Actual Innocence

The appellate court does not review new evidence on appeal. However, if you are actually innocent, there are several arguments we can use to fight for the conviction to be overturned. We may argue evidence of your innocence was improperly excluded or the prosecutor did not provide us with exculpatory innocence. We may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in order to utilize new evidence supporting your actual innocence.

Sentencing Mistake

California and federal judges are limited by law to the sentence they can impose. If the sentence you receive is overly harsh and outside of the bounds of California or federal sentencing laws, we ill fight to have your sentence overturned and revised.

Violation of the Statute of Limitations

Different crimes have different statutes of limitation under California and federal law. We will calculate the appropriate statute of limitations, and if we find the charges we brought too late, we will appeal. The trial court should dismiss charges that violate the statute of limitations.

Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A court must have subject matter jurisdiction in order to make decisions about a certain legal matter. Some courts have general jurisdiction and can hear most types of cases. Other courts have jurisdiction over specific types of matters only. We will review the court’s jurisdiction over your case, and if it lacked subject matter jurisdiction, we would file an appeal.

Change of Venue Motion Was Improperly Denied

The court venue refers to the specific location of the court where your case will be heard. Typically, a case is tried in the county or federal district where the crime allegedly took place. We can appeal if the case was filed in the improper venue. Changing venue may be appropriate if holding a jury trial in a certain location is unlikely to lead to unfair prejudice. We could file an appeal if your trial attorney filed a motion to change the venue that was improperly denied.

Defendant Was Improperly Restrained in Front of Jury

Physical restraints and prison outfits can prejudice the jury against you. Unless the judge orders that restraints are necessary, you should not be restrained in front of the jury. We can appeal if you were inappropriately restrained in front of the jury or if the judge abused their discretion in ordering you to be restrained.

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

Defendants are typically transported to a courthouse in jail or prison-issued clothing and handcuffs or shackles. You should be given an opportunity to change before you enter the courtroom, and the jury sees you. The jury should not be allowed or enabled to see you in the prison clothing and restraints.

Defendant’s Exclusion from the Courtroom During Parts of the Trial

You are entitled to be present during criminal court proceedings against you unless there is a specific reason to exclude you from certain portions of the proceedings. For example, you can be removed from the courtroom for disorderly conduct. However, if you were improperly excluded by the judge, we will appeal.

Judge’s Communications with Jury Without Defense Counsel Present

Judges are not allowed to improperly influence juries, which is why judges are not entitled to speak with the jury without the defense attorney and prosecutor present. We will appeal if we discover the judge spoke with one or more jurors improperly.

Judge’s Improper Admission of Confession Following Lack of Miranda Warnings

A defendant’s confession can only be admitted at trial if it was obtained after the police gave read them the Miranda Rights. The U.S. Supreme Court determined the Miranda warnings are necessary to protect a person’s constitutional right against self-incrimination. We will appeal if the judge admitted a confession that was obtained without the police informing you of your Miranda rights.

Judge’s Improper Ruling on Sufficiency of Warrant Motion

A warrant is a legal document signed by a judge giving the police the right to search a particular place and look for and seize specific property or to arrest a specific person. To obtain a warrant, the police must have probable cause. If the judge improperly decided a motion based on an invalid warrant, we will appeal.

Judge’s Improper Ruling on Identification Procedures Motion

If the police did not follow proper procedures when using identification techniques, like lineups, this may violate your due process rights and provide a basis for an appeal.

Denied Defense Counsel at Critical Stages of Court Proceedings

If you are denied your right to have an attorney at any stage of the criminal court process, this is a violation of your constitutional rights.

Trial Attorney’s Conflict of Interest

Your trial attorney, whether a public defender or private defense counsel, owes you a duty of loyalty and professional care. They cannot represent effectively if they have a conflict of interest. If we discover your trial lawyer had a conflict of interest during your case, we will appeal on the basis of ineffective counsel.

Undue Prejudiced by Pretrial or Trial Publicity

You have the right to have an impartial jury decide your case. However, pre-trial media coverage in the county or federal district may have tainted the jury pool. When prospective jurors are likely prejudiced against you, then the judge should approve a motion for a change of venue. If we believe you were convicted by a jury that was unfairly prejudiced against you, then we will appeal.

Improper Challenge of a Juror Due to Juror’s Race/Gender/etc. by Prosecutor

Before trial, there is the voir dire process. This is the process through which the lawyers choose a jury from a pool of individuals. Both the defense counsel and prosecutor are given a number of peremptory challenges through which they can dismiss a potential juror without giving a reason. However, the defendant counsel can challenge a dismissal if it is based on a potential juror’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or other characteristics. We also can use this issue as a basis for appeal.

Improper Ruling on Expert Testimony

For experts to testify at trial, they must meet certain requirements. If the judge allows expert testimony from someone who does not satisfy the prerequisites or denies an expert for the defense who does satisfy them, then we will appeal.

Improper or Improperly Filled Out Jury Verdict Form

The judge gives the jury a verdict form, which the jurors use to give the court their verdict. This form must meet certain requirements. If the form does not meet the requirements when given to the jury or the jury improperly fills it out, this may be a basis for appeal.

“Golden Rule” Violation by Prosecutor

The “Golden Rule” is a type of argument in which the prosecution asks the jurors to place themselves in the victim’s shoes when determining whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. It is a highly prejudicial argument. It asks the jury to focus on their emotions rather than decide the case on objective facts. Because of this, Golden Rule arguments are not allowed. We will appeal if the prosecutor used this type of strategy.

Failure to Disclose Exculpatory Evidence by Prosecutor

Your constitutional rights require prosecutors to disclose any potentially exculpatory evidence. This is evidence that tends to prove you are not guilty. If we discover the prosecutor failed to hand over evidence, we will ask for the conviction to be overturned.

Failure to Disclose Relevant Information About a Witness by Prosecutor

Prosecutors must disclose relevant information about witnesses, including any leniency offered by the prosecutor’s office or material aspects of that witness’s character. This is considered a type of exculpatory evidence.

Spolin Law P.C. has successfully used many of these arguments to help clients win criminal appeals. To learn which arguments may be effective in your case, call us at (866) 716-2805.

  1. How to Win a Criminal Appeal
  2. State and Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Effective Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Criminal Appeals Process
  5. The Importance of Working with an Appeals Lawyer

The Criminal Appeals Process

Criminal appeals attorneys Don Nguyen, Aaron Spolin, and Jeremy Cutcher | Spolin Law P.C.

Criminal appeals law firm Spolin Law P.C. prepares strong arguments for clients who deserve to be released from prison.

There are complex procedural requirements when you file a criminal appeal. If you do not adhere to that process, your appeal may be dismissed or delayed.

Steps of the criminal appeals process include:

  • File a Notice of Appeal
    You must file a document that states your intention to file an appeal within the time limit prescribed by law.
  • Obtain a Trial Transcript
    Once you file a notice of appeal, the court reporter will prepare a full transcript of your case.
  • Submit the Opening Brief
    The court dictates the briefing schedule. Your appeals lawyers must file an opening brief. This describes what happened at trial, why the decision was wrong, and why the court should reverse the trial court’s decision. This brief informs the appellate court of the material legal mistake that occurred at trial.
  • The Respondent’s Brief
    The government also has the right to file a brief in response to your appeal. This defends against your attorney’s arguments regarding the alleged legal mistake.
  • Reply to the Brief
    The court may give you a brief period of time to respond to the government’s brief.
  • Prepare Oral Arguments
    Not all appeals go through oral arguments. Either party can request oral arguments or the appellate court, a panel of three judges can require them. During oral arguments, we will not reiterate many facts. Instead, we will focus on proving what we claimed in brief and answering the judges’ questions.
  • The Appeal Decision
    Following the written briefs and oral arguments, if they are required, the panel of judges will deliberate and hand down their decision. The appellate court can affirm the trial court’s decision, reverse the trial court’s decision, or remand your case back to the trial court.
  • Request a Rehearing
    If the appellate court does not decide in your favor, we will request a rehearing from that court after the decision. This is necessary if we believe the court’s decision was based on an issue not presented in our briefs, or the court’s opinion leaves out a material fact or issue.
  • Request a Review
    We will file a Petition for Review if your case presents a novel issue in the law, or there is a constitutional violation or error. This is an important step if we wish to take your case to the Supreme Court or file a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus.

You should not attempt to take on a criminal appeal on your own behalf. If you had a public defender for your trial, they are likely very busy and may not have provided you with effective assistance of counsel. When you hire Spolin Law P.C., we will make sure you understand the appeals process and work hard to achieve success in your case. Call us today at (866) 716-2805 to get started.

  1. How to Win a Criminal Appeal
  2. State and Federal Appeal Deadlines
  3. Effective Arguments That Can Overturn Convictions
  4. The Criminal Appeals Process
  5. The Importance of Working with an Appeals Lawyer

The Importance of Working with an Appeals Lawyer

Spolin Law P.C. Logo

Spolin Law P.C is a premier criminal appeals law firm that fights hard to get convictions overturned. Call us today at (866) 716-2805.

When you want to appeal a conviction or sentence, you need to hire a lawyer who is highly experienced. Criminal appeals attorney Aaron Spolin has a record of success.

By working with a seasoned appeals lawyer, you have someone who will:

  • Analyze the Trial Record — Hiring an appeals attorney means you have fresh eyes on your case. A lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. will scrutinize the entire trial record.
  • Discover New Arguments — Your attorney will review the facts and legal arguments presented at trial. Successful appeals attorneys often can uncover several arguments for appeal. At Spolin Law P.C., we are confident we can find arguments others have missed.
  • Fight to Win — Our team at Spolin Law P.C. takes the criminal appeals process very seriously. We are in it to win, and we have achieved outstanding results for many of our clients.

Aaron Spolin is a former prosecutor and award-winning appeals attorney. He and his firm are highly ranked by The American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys.

To learn more about how Spolin Law P.C. can help you through the appeals process, call (866) 716-2805 to talk to someone you can trust.