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Appeal a Guilty Verdict or Plea Bargain

In the criminal court system, a person can appeal a guilty verdict, unfair sentence, unfair plea bargain, and other rulings. The choice of appellate counsel is extremely important because everything rests on the written brief, which states the facts and argues the law. Once an attorney submits the appellate brief, his client will be procedurally barred from raising those claims ever again -- so the attorney better get everything right! It is important to hire a skilled attorney with experience handling appeals and to avoid the attorney who represented the client during the guilty verdict or bad plea bargain.

An appeal usually focuses on technical mistakes from the pretrial and trial process. It also may focus on the incompetency of prior defense counsel during critical portions of the criminal process, including the negotiation and acceptance of a plea bargain. If a defense attorney failed to provide effective assitance of counsel, the defendant may be entitled to a rehearing, a retrial, a shorter sentence, or other relief.

An appeal will rely on technical aspects of criminal procedure, constitutional theory, and administrative law, and the attorney must follow precise appellate procedures. A failure to plan a meticulous appellate record and brief can result in the court denying an otherwise winning appeal! In most cases, a client should feel comfortable with asking the attorney for examples of his work in similar cases, such as a successful brief. If an appellate attorney cannot discuss the specifics of a legal matter and/or cannot provide examples of successful appeals and/or cannot show the client acceptable sample appellate briefs, the client should be wary. Many talented trial attorneys may have little experience with appeals, which often requires sophisticated legal arguments and a higher caliber of legal experience -- therefore, a client should be careful to select an appellate attorney with knowledge, talent, and experience with New York state and federal procedure and law.

I often recommend that clients vet an attorney's work just as if the person were selecting a brain surgeon. If a surgeon can discuss prior successful surgeries and show the patient examples of success, the patient can size up the doctor and know whether he trusts this person with his life. The patient does not have to be an expert doctor when determining whether he feels comfortable with spending money on what could be an expensive medical procedure. Similarly, a client should not feel intimidated by an arrogant attorney who will not explain the law or who treats the client like he does not understand what is happening. Rather, a client should read a few pages of an appellate brief and see whether the attorney writes persuasively. If an attorney cannot demonstrate his expertise, the attorney may be hiding his inexperience with appellate practice.

The cost of an appeal will depend on the level of the offense and the complexity of the legal matter. It also will depend on whether the appellate attorney is pursuing technical arguments related to statutory interpretation, case law, or constitutional principles. Finally, it will depend on whether the attorney will pursue these claims in state or federal court, as federal court may be a better option for pursuing certain matters relating to state law if the state appellate courts have been unfavorable in similar prior cases. Sometimes, a skilled appellate attorney will have to set up an appeal for a higher court -- such as the New York Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of the United States -- because those courts only hear a very small number of cases and only if the attorney sets up the record correctly. Appeals usually require $600-$1000 for court costs and record production or duplication, which should be included in the legal fees.

Ideally, an attorney with strong appellate experience will work on a client's case from the beginning to ensure that he preserves the record. If a bad attorney fails to object at the right times, the client forfeits his right to appeal these mistakes! Unfortunately, many clients come to an appellate attorney to fix the mistakes made by a prior attorney ("fixer" cases). Don't make the same mistakes twice! Doing your homework can be the difference between a successful appeal and a waste of money.
Attorney Advertising: All content sponsored by The Law Office of Adam Bevelacqua, LLC. Although informational, this website may be considered attorney advertising. Every case has unique circumstances, and a person should consult a criminal attorney before taking any legal action.