Were you or was someone you know recently unjustly convicted? Perhaps a no contest or guilty plea was entered and an unlawful sentence was imposed. Don't fret! Please understand that what happens at the trial court level isn't the end of the road. In most cases, with the assistance of a Fort Lauderdale appeals lawyer, a defendant can appeal the judgment and/or the sentence to a higher court. This is commonly referred to as the direct appeal.
Understanding the Direct Appeal
The direct appeal is one of the most critical stages in the criminal justice process.
It's an opportunity to have the legal issues that came up during the plea or during trial reviewed by a higher court. However, not every legal issue can be reviewed during the direct appeal. Only those legal issues that the trial attorney specifically reserved by motion or by making a proper objection, or those legal issues that can be characterized as a “fundamental error,” can be raised on appeal.
A fundamental error is a legal error of such a magnitude that appellate court will consider the issue, even in the absence of a specific objection by the attorney at the trial court level. Examples of errors that may be considered fundamental and grounds for an appeal include the following:
- Improper jury instructions. If a judge’s instructions to the jury are erroneous and violate the defendant’s right to due process and he's convicted, this would be considered a fundamental error.
- Jurisdictional errors. If a trial court acts outside of its jurisdiction, it could affect the foundation of the case and be grounds for appeal.
- Double jeopardy. This clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits the prosecution of individuals for the same crime on more than one occasion, or imposing more than one punishment for a single offense. These convictions can be overturned on appeal.
- Conviction for a nonexistent offense. If it can be shown that the courts erroneously construed the law in order to convict an individual, this is grounds for appeal.
- Violation of due process. When pursuing charges against a defendant, certain procedures must be followed. If the correct procedures aren't followed, a conviction may be overturned.
It's important to understand that, in most cases, the appellate court doesn't advocate on a defendant's behalf by examining the trial record for errors. Instead, the appellate court relies on attorneys to assist the court with understanding the facts of the case and the legal issues involved. An appellate attorney assists the court in this capacity by filing a document called a brief. The appellate brief tells the appellate court which issues, in the attorney’s opinion, deserve the court’s intervention, and explains why relief should be ordered.
The vast majority of defendants are only afforded one opportunity at a direct appeal. If an error is overlooked or not properly raised in the brief by the appellate attorney, a defendant could be barred from ever having that issue reviewed by a court in the future.
Because of this, it's imperative to have a skilled and knowledgeable appellate attorney working for you—one who will carefully review the record in your case and make sure the appellate court is informed of every possible legal error that occurred, which could result in a favorable ruling on your behalf.
Robert Malove Is the Florida Criminal Appellate Attorney You Need
No matter who represented you at trial, Florida appellate attorney Robert Malove can review your case and determine if you have a chance at appeal. Our firm aims to provide the most effective and result-producing appeals through exhaustive research, the filing of academically superior briefs, motions, and the vigorous pursuit of successful negotiations with the power of full engagement. We take our clients' freedom seriously and litigate passionately to achieve the fair treatment and due process you deserve. Don’t delay any longer. For serious criminal appellate representation, contact me today!