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Writs and Appeals Lawyers in Los Angeles

If You Were Convicted of a Crime, We May Be Able to Help Overturn It

When facing trial, your worst nightmare may be the jury coming back with a guilty verdict. However, a conviction is not always final. Trials are complicated affairs, and any one of a thousand things can be done incorrectly by the prosecution. Thankfully, here in the United States, the appellate court is in place to correct mistakes and overturn faulty legal decisions.

If you or a loved one received a guilty verdict, you need a legal team with deep experience in successfully pursuing writs and appeals. The Los Angeles defense attorneys at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP have a proven track record when it comes to handling appellate matters. In fact, Kelly Quinn is recognized by the California State Bar as a Certified Appeals Specialist. Call us today at (213) 688-0460 to learn more.

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What Is the Appeals Process?

The moment your trial ends, the appeals process begins. Any defendant who has been convicted of a crime must act quickly to successfully challenge a guilty verdict. A notice of appeal must be filed immediately following a conviction to alert the court clerk they must prepare the transcripts for review by the lawyers and higher courts. A failure to file a notice of appeal in a timely manner means the defendant may be unable to file an appeal at all.

An appeal is defined as the process of requesting that a higher court examine the decision of a trial court after a legal ruling, with hope of reversal. A major part of this process involves filing a brief with the appeals court that explains the legal cause for overturning the ruling. It is important to know that no new evidence is considered during the appeal. The argument may only show that there was some misapplication of the law during the original trial that led to the flawed verdict.

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When Is an Appeal Legitimate?

Appealing to have your case reviewed is standard practice. However, just because an appeal is standard does not mean that your appeal will immediately be considered legitimate or accepted for review. There are a few circumstances in which an appeal would be considered legitimate by a higher court. Showing that your appeal falls into one of these categories is paramount.

Improper use of evidence: This could mean that the prosecution excluded important evidence that could have shown your innocence, or that evidence that should not have been included was used as part of your conviction. For example, if you were not read your Miranda Rights before your interrogation, any confession that came as a result could not be used against you. If the evidence was used anyway, then it would be grounds for an appeal.

Insufficient evidence: One of the greatest things about America is the fact that people facing prosecution are judged by a jury of their peers. However, the jury is made up of normal people, meaning their own biases can cloud their judgment. At times, there is clearly not enough evidence for a conviction, but juries still choose to move forward with the conviction anyway. If the evidence is truly insufficient, then you can send in an appeal.

Ineffective assistance of counsel: It is an unfortunate fact that lawyers can make mistakes. Perhaps you hired or were assigned a public defender who was incompetent or committed a serious legal error. However, the appellate court will assume that your lawyer acted acceptably, so you must be able to show that his work fell below a reasonable standard and that that failure resulted in actual prejudice.

Prosecution misconduct: Prosecutors are determined to prove guilt and may go to dishonest lengths to do so. If a prosecutor committed misconduct and the judge did not stop him and instruct the jury to discount the dishonest or improper act, then it is grounds for an appeal. Misconduct can include acts such as including inadmissible evidence, purposefully misstating the law or evidence, or directly appealing to the judge’s prejudices, passions, or biases.

Jury misconduct: Juries are expected to behave in a certain manner. Being on a jury is a right and should be treated as such. However, jurors are people, and people can act in dishonest ways. Examples of jury misconduct can include refusing to deliberate, conducting their own investigation outside of the trial, taking bribes in return for positive or negative verdicts, or a juror purposefully concealing relevant information that impact the jury’s ability to remain impartial.

Sentencing errors: While the jury decides on the verdict, it is the judge who decides the penalties. Judges must act within certain guidelines when it comes to handing out penalties. If the judge gives an inappropriate sentence or does not voice the reasons behind the punishment, then it could be considered a sentencing error.

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What Does the Appeals Process Look Like?

The process of filing an appeal can be complicated. Step one, you will need to submit the appeal itself. This can only be done after the final judgment, which means that the trial has concluded, and you have been given your verdict and sentence.

Once the appeal is submitted, you must begin step two, which is to get your argument ready. Remember, an appeal is not a do-over. Your trial has concluded, and you will not be getting another one. An appeal is an argument that there was some misapplication of law within your trial that must be corrected. You will need to prove to the appellate court that there was some form of injustice or misconduct.

You will not be released during the appeals process. As far as the law is concerned, you stood trial and were convicted. However, you may be allowed to pay bail and secure your release while you wait for the appellate court’s decision. Making your bail is highly recommended, as time with your attorney could be limited while in jail.

Step three is the briefs. A brief is, essentially, a chance to make your argument. You will have the chance to make your case, as will the prosecution, who will be arguing against you. Unlike with your trial, you are now the one with the burden of proof. This means you must be able to provide evidence on your own behalf. While this can complicate your case, it also means you will have one more brief than the prosecution, giving you the chance to reply to their argument.

Step four is the oral argument. Your brief will be presented via paperwork, but your oral argument gives you the opportunity to make your case to the appellate court in person. While your briefs can present your arguments and evidence well enough to get a positive outcome, presenting yourself in person may be the right choice. The prosecution will also get a chance to make an oral argument if they choose to.

Then you will get to step 5, in which the appellate court will give its decision. If you are not satisfied with the court’s decision, you can submit a petition for review, which will go to the Supreme Court of California. Keep in mind that the prosecution can do the same, meaning that even if you get a positive outcome from the appellate court, you may still have to make your case to the Supreme Court of California.

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What Is a Writ?

Similar to appeals, writs are legal mechanisms that allow a higher court to review a legal issue. A writ is defined as a formal written order, which can be used to request a review of the issue. What sets a writ apart from an appeal is how fast the process goes and the urgency of the matter. An appeal can take upward of a year to reach a final decision, since the appellate court is busy. However, a writ requires a decision to be made faster. In extreme cases, a writ could be resolved in as little as a few hours.

For example, a writ of habeas corpus is used by a person to contest unlawful detention or imprisonment and request that the court determine whether the detention is lawful. In such a case, it would be considered an emergency because the person’s rights are being infringed upon. Thus making it a writ, not an appeal.

In a similar vein, a writ of mandamus is an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering that official to fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion. This would be used when the judge in the original case acted in a faulty manner.

It's possible for a defendant to file a writ to contest issues they would otherwise be unable to raise during an appeal. For example, when an attorney has failed to investigate a plausible defense or there is newly discovered evidence. Determining whether your case warrants a writ or an appeal can be difficult. The appellate court does not appreciate improperly made claims, as that takes time away from their other cases. A skilled attorney can help you choose the right one.

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Other Remedies After a Conviction

In addition to appeals and writs, California residents have other legal remedies at their disposal following a conviction. For example, Proposition 47 allows a person who has been convicted of certain theft or drug crimes to petition the trial court to have a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. There are countless ways that an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can help you seek freedom, but the success of your appeal or writ will depend on who you work with.

At Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP, we understand appeals, and we have the resources to guide our clients through every step of the process. When you hire us, you aren’t hiring one lawyer, but a team of the top criminal defense attorneys in Southern California. Contact our Los Angeles office today at (213) 688-0460 to schedule a free evaluation.

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Additional Information

Contact Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP Today
Phone: (213) 688-0460
Fax: (213) 624-1942

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