Exploring the Most Common Reasons Criminal Verdicts Are Appealed

Being wrongfully charged with a crime is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone. However, once a court has convicted and sentenced a criminal defendant, the defendant can file an appeal to a higher court. The appeal asks the higher court to review the lower court’s decision for any legal errors that could have affected the case outcome. 

There are several common reasons criminal verdicts can be appealed. This article will explore some of the most typical grounds for appeal, including:

  • Legal error
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel
  • Juror misconduct
  • Evidentiary issues 

If the appellate court grants the appeal, it can reverse the lower court’s decision. This reversal is either in whole or in part, depending on the case and the appeal. If the appellate court denies the request, then the lower court’s decision remains. 

The Right to Appeal 

In some cases, the defendant does not have an automatic right to appeal. If the conviction results from a guilty appeal, the defendant is unable to appeal in some cases. An appeal will only be heard in most jurisdictions if the defendant is granted permission to proceed by the appellate court. 

If the criminal defendant was convicted by a judge or a jury at trial, they have an absolute right to appeal their convictions. Furthermore, any state that enforces the death penalty also allows an automatic appeal of cases involving a death sentence. These are severe cases in which an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer is necessary, especially for the appeal process. 

If the court acquits the defendant, the prosecutor might not appeal the verdict. If a verdict of “not guilty” is appealed, it would violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. In the unlikely event that a judge puts aside the jury’s guilty verdict, the judge’s not guilty verdict can be appealable. Additionally, prosecutors can appeal all pretrial decisions and rulings surrounding the evidence used at trial. 

Grounds for Appeal

There are various reasons criminal verdicts can be repealed – there just has to be valid grounds for an appeal. A few examples of grounds for an appeal include juror misconduct, evidentiary issues, legal errors, and others. For the request to be granted, the appellate court has to prove that these errors affected the case’s outcome. If the errors were harmless and would not have changed the result, then the conviction will stand. 

Common Reasons Criminal Verdicts Are Appealed

Below are a few of the most common reasons criminal verdicts are appealed. There are quite a few grounds for appeal that defendants can explore after a criminal verdict, from evidentiary issues to legal errors. 

Legal Error

One of the most common reasons criminal verdicts are appealed is legal errors or plain error. There are various rulings or actions that can significantly affect your rights during trial. Even if the mistakes are not brought up during the initial trial, they can be grounds for appeal if they could’ve changed the course of the verdict. 

A few examples of legal errors include:

  • Improperly admitted evidence
  • Incorrect jury instructions
  • Lack of sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict
  • Sentencing errors after conviction
  • Blatant mistakes made by the judge before or during trial

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Criminal defendants can also appeal their cases if they think they weren’t provided with adequate representation. The Sixth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution famously gives every person the right to effective counsel assistance. If your lawyer failed to provide you with effective legal counseling, you could submit an appeal. You would have to prove that the outcome would have been different if your counsel’s actions were different to win an appeal for ineffective assistance of counsel. 

It isn’t enough to disagree with your lawyer’s actions during the trial, but instead you have to prove that they failed to do their job. You may have a valid claim for an appeal if your lawyer did one of the following:

  • Failed to call a key witness on your behalf
  • Actively conspired with the prosecution
  • Did not relay a possible plea deal to you before trial
  • Committed other gross acts of legal incompetence

Juror Misconduct

Another principal reason criminal verdicts are appealed is due to juror misconduct. If the defendant reasonably believes the jury did not conduct itself properly during the trial or deliberations, they have grounds for an appeal. 

Juror misconduct can include, but is not limited to, the following actions:

  • Using drugs or alcohol during deliberations or trial
  • Improper communication between jurors and witnesses or counsel
  • Juror disobedience to instructions
  • Inappropriate communications with third parties or alternate jurors
  • Contact with extraneous reading materials or inadmissible evidence
  • Race and ethnic prejudice

Evidentiary Issues 

Evidentiary issues can occur before the trail in the pretrial motion phase, or during the trial itself. When a judge makes an improper ruling on legal grounds for the exclusion or inclusion of evidence it can be grounds for an appeal. However, it has to be proven that this evidence could’ve changed the results of the trial, otherwise the appeal will be denied. 

Another evidentiary issue that can be used as grounds for an appeal is a lack of sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict. If the jury finds the defendant guilty in a trial lacking the proper evidence to convict, there are grounds for an appeal. In these cases, the jury is shown to have made the decision based on emotional or biased grounds and not legal ones. 

Choosing a Lawyer Who Can Help Appeal Your Criminal Verdict

The appeal experts at CJB Law can help anyone who has been wrongfully convicted. There are many common reasons criminal verdicts are appealed, and our experienced attorneys can help you decide the best course of action. Whether you’re dealing with legal error, evidentiary issues, juror misconduct, or ineffective assistance of counsel, our attorneys will help you appeal your verdict and set things right. Contact the lawyers at CJB Law today for a consultation.