Only a small percentage of those facing criminal charges attempt to mount a defense via a criminal trial. Those who do are usually quite passionate about proving that they did not violate the law. Unfortunately, criminal trials don’t always go the way that a defendant anticipates. Issues outside of their control can leave them at the mercy of a judge for the purpose of sentencing and facing a lifetime with a criminal record holding them back from many opportunities in life.
Thankfully, even after a conviction, those who maintain their innocence to sometimes have another option for protecting their reputations and clearing their names. An appeal involves requesting that a higher court look at what happened during a criminal trial. Grounds for appeal arise under a variety of circumstances.
When a lawyer failed to provide proper representation
Every criminal defendant has the right to legal representation from a licensed attorney, but not every lawyer will provide clients with the same caliber of legal support. Some lawyers take on far more cases than they can reasonably manage. Others only take on a handful of clients but might sometimes accept cases that are well outside of their area of expertise. If a lawyer missed hearings in court, demonstrated a lack of knowledge in a particular area of law or otherwise undermined a client’s defense efforts, their inadequate representation could provide grounds for an appeal.
When the courts misinterpreted the law
One of the more common reasons for individuals to appeal a criminal conviction is that they maintain that the lower courts committed some kind of error when interpreting the law. Perhaps a judge refused to consider crucial precedent that clarifies an unusual situation. Maybe some degree of bias influenced the courts and prevented someone from raising a reasonable claim of self-defense as permitted under the law. When the defendant has a clear claim related to a legal violation or misinterpretation, they may qualify for an appeal.
When there were ethical violations
Most of the parties involved in a criminal case must do their best to remain neutral and to disclose any factors that might compromise their neutrality. Jurors, judges, prosecutors and even defense attorneys have an obligation to disclose factors that might make them less impartial or that could be a conflict of interest. When professionals involved in a case or jurors making determinations about someone’s guilt do not provide thorough and honest information about their personal histories and interests, that could unfairly influence the outcome of criminal proceedings.
Defendants who firmly believe that the circumstances leading to their conviction represent a miscarriage of justice can sometimes benefit from seeking legal support and actively trying to overturn an unfavorable verdict. Recognizing when a criminal appeal is possible can help someone better manage their response to a recent criminal conviction.