Unfortunately, mistakes do happen in criminal cases. Are you frustrated with a New Jersey court’s finding in a criminal case? If you are, don’t settle for an order that is wrong.
Any order entered by a judge could have serious implications. You could even face several years to life in prison for a conviction that was based on error. Even for minor crimes, a sentence could include jail time, fines, and other punishment.
What is an appeal?
In short, an appeal is asking the court to agree with you that the trial court made an error in deciding your case. The mistake could be based on facts and evidence, or it may be one where the judge did not properly apply the law.
A criminal defendant can challenge the conviction itself, but you can also file an appeal for a sentencing error. You cannot argue the jury’s guilty charge, but you can still raise an appeal on the basis that your sentencing does not follow New Jersey guidelines.
Can I appeal any order of the court that affects my rights?
You can only file an appeal once a jury has reached a guilty verdict and the judge begins final judgment. There may be other issues during your trial that raise concerns even before the order. For convenience and efficiency, you should wait to bring interim matters up until after the trial concludes. Others are interlocutory, which means you can take them before the court in later situations.
Keep in mind the rule of double jeopardy in a criminal case: only YOU can file an appeal if you’re found guilty. The state cannot bring up the same charges through the appellate process.
Which court will hear my appeal case?
In most cases, your matter will proceed before the New Jersey appeals court. You cannot file an appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court unless:
- An appellate court has already ruled on a constitutional question;
- There was a dissent at the appellate level;
- Your sentence was the death penalty at the trial level; or,
- Your case otherwise qualifies for appeal as of right before the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Will I need to testify in an appeal?
You will never need to appear in court when your case is on appeal, nor will any other victims or witnesses. An appeal only deals with the trial record which includes:
- All transcripts of all pretrial proceedings, including your arraignment, motion hearings, court appearances, and status conferences;
- All discovery, including documents, witness statements, depositions, police reports, and other records;
- A full transcript of the entire trial; and,
- A record of the proceedings in connection with your sentencing.
The court will look at the trial record and use legal concepts to decide if there was an error in procedure or law. There is no new trial, evidence, or testimony from witnesses;the appeal is based on the trial record, briefs and oral arguments from your attorney. There’s usually some questioning by judges and your lawyer will respond, but you will not be called as a witness.
What happens at the end of an appeal?
Success at the appellate level in a criminal case doesn’t mean you “win”; there are many actions the court could take. For example, the judges may:
- Confirm the trial court’s decision, which means your conviction and sentence still stands;
- Order a new trial, re-starting the process;
- Change the trial court’s decision by adjusting your sentence or changing the instructions for the jury;
- Allowing new evidence for consideration, which only happens if certain facts are discovered under specific circumstances; or,
- Tossing the entire case, allowing you to avoid punishment. This is also rare and is usually the result of an extreme violation of your civil rights.
Do I need to hire a lawyer to represent me?
There is no legal rule that you need an attorney for the appeals process in New Jersey.
However, the complexities of appeals should be an sign that legal representation is critical – especially for cases where you face a long prison term, large fines, registration as a sex offender, and other consequences. A criminal record has serious implications for many aspects of your life. If there’s any error at the trial level, you owe it to yourself to fight injustice.
An attorney can help you by:
- Preparing the Notice of Appeal;
- Getting the transcript of your trial and associated records;
- Drafting the appellate brief, where you state the legal concepts to support your claim that the trial court’s actions were wrong;
- Appearing before the appeals court to argue your case;
- Answering questions and providing more information to appellate judges; and,
- Tackling many other tasks.
Trust a New Jersey Appeals Attorney to Assist with Your Case
If you believe there was an error in your conviction or other legal issues, talk to an experienced lawyer about your case immediately.
To learn more about your rights and the appellate process, please contact the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC to schedule an appointment.
We serve clients in a wide range of criminal matters at all stages of the process, including New Jersey appeals.