Judicial building building where criminal appeals are held.

Reasons to Appeal a Criminal Case

Receiving a criminal conviction is not always the end of the road. While it might seem like it is, a criminal conviction often begins the process of deciding how to create a successful appeal, which involves questioning a court’s legal basis for making a decision. There are a number of ways in which an appeal can be used to show that an error in judgment was made. Short of the most obvious factual errors, appellate courts rarely view the facts associated with a case to determine if any factual errors were made. Continue reading to learn about the various reasons to appeal a criminal case.

8 Reasons to Appeal a Criminal Case

The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the most common reasons to appeal a criminal case. To create a successful appeal, a lower court’s errors must be material in nature or of such a degree that the errors affect the outcome of a person’s case. 

False Arrest

If a person was falsely arrested for an offense, there is a strong legal defense to a conviction on which an appeal can be based. False arrest is found to occur when law enforcement arrests an individual without probable cause for a warrant or when an arrest does not fall into one of the many warrant exceptions. 

Incorrect Jury Instructions

At the end of all criminal trials in which a jury is involved, a judge will provide jury instructions that describe the manner in which jurors are to handle the applicable law as applied to the case being heard. 

While many judges are able to skillfully handle jury instructions, this is not always what happens. When a judge fails to inform a jury about how the law should be applied or fails to include all of the law applicable laws for a verdict, an appeal can likely be created. 

Improper Use of Evidence

Prior to nearly every criminal trial, a hearing occurs, at which time it is decided what evidence will be allowed in a trial. While the prosecution and defense will have different arguments about what evidence should be let in, these matters are ultimately resolved by a judge. 

In some cases, however, judges make improper decisions regarding the use of evidence and either exclude proper evidence or allow improper evidence to be used. In these situations, it is possible to bring the error of how evidence was handled upon appeal. An appellate court will then be tasked with reviewing the evidence in a case and making a decision about whether the lower court committed a legal error in handling the evidence.  

Even if it is decided that it was an error for a judge to allow evidence into trial, an appellate court must then decide whether the error was substantial enough to affect the outcome of the case.

Lack of Adequate Evidence

To convict a person of a criminal offense, the prosecution must establish that a person committed each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If a person is convicted of a criminal offense as a result of insufficient evidence, it is possible to create a strong appeal. 

In many situations where a person was convicted of an offense based on inadequate evidence, this is an indicator that a jury made a decision to conviction as a result of either emotions or prejudice. 

While errors in handling evidence are known to occur, these appeals are frequently difficult to obtain. Often, these appeals are only possible to obtain if it can be demonstrated that the weight of the evidence in a case did not support a guilty verdict and that another factor led to a court’s decision.

Juror Misconduct

Being a juror is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Instead, jurors must observe a number of rules designed to make sure that they reach an impartial decision. 

Unfortunately, juror misconduct is known to occur. If it can be demonstrated that a juror acted inappropriately in reaching a decision to convict, this can form the basis for a strong appeal. 

Unlike some of the other reasons for criminal appeals, juror misconduct appeals are fairly common. Some of the most common examples of how jurors can act inappropriately include inappropriate communication between jurors and witnesses or attorneys. 

Sentencing Errors

The sentencing phase is frequently complex and can result in sentencing errors. The type and number of offenses, as well as previous criminal convictions, impact the way in which a person is sentenced. Based on the offense involved, there are also a number of unique rules that judges must follow during the sentencing phase. 

Unfortunately, errors handling all of this information are known to occur and can lead to robust appellate strategies.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In accordance with the law in the United States, every individual has the right to counsel. There is also a right to counsel who will provide effective representation. When reviewing cases, appellate courts have traditionally allowed attorneys to have great discretion in the strategies that they decide to employ during a trial. 

A defendant must demonstrate that a lawyer’s conduct prejudiced a person to the degree that it affected the outcome of a case. Some of the most common examples of ineffective representation by counsel include failure to introduce adequate evidence or failure to motion for a mistrial while misconduct by jurors or the prosecution was occurring. 

Unethical Acts by the Prosecution

Unethical acts by the prosecution can result in the grounds for a strong appeal. Similar to other appellate grounds, a person must demonstrate that unethical acts by the prosecution were to such a degree that they influenced the outcome of a case. 

Most commonly, this misconduct includes prosecutors who made inappropriate comments during the trial or who intentionally misstated the law. In response to the unethical behavior of this nature by the prosecutor, judges will often attempt to cure the situation by instructing the jury to disregard comments that were made by the prosecution. 

Learn About Your Appeal Options in a Criminal Case

Understanding reasons to appeal criminal case is complicated and the criminal appellate process can be challenging to navigate. If you need the assistance of an experienced criminal appeals attorney, do not hesitate to contact the Federal Criminal Law Center today to schedule a free initial consultation.