During a Monroe County criminal case, mistakes are inevitable, either during the pretrial process or during the trial itself. Just like not all typographical errors on a traffic ticket invalidate the citation, not all mistakes allow a defendant to appeal a conviction successfully. In addition to an error, a Rochester criminal defense attorney must show that the mistake substantially affected the trial’s outcome.
Criminal appeals often do more than release the defendant from custody or court supervision. In many cases, record sealing may be available after an appeal. Court officials, law enforcement officers, and a few employers can view sealed records, but no one else can.
1. Lack of Evidence
This basis is one of the hardest ways to appeal a conviction. Especially after a jury trial, appellate judges do not usually second guess the jurors’ conclusions. Sometimes, however, there is a complete lack of evidence on one element of the offense. Non-serious injury DWI collision cases are a good example. By the time emergency responders arrive, both drivers have frequently left their vehicles. So, officers cannot testify that the DWI defendant was driving the car.
2. Juror Misconduct
In the 1957 film Twelve Angry Men, one of the jurors bought a knife at a pawnshop to prove a point to his fellow jurors. He could have declared a mistrial if the judge had found out about that purchase. To reach their verdict, jurors may only consider the evidence presented at trial. Today, in the smartphone era, it’s easy to Google a defendant’s name and see what comes up. These do-it-yourself investigations could be grounds for a successful appeal.
3. Appealing a Conviction and Improper Admission of Evidence
These errors usually occur during pretrial hearings. Confessions and physical evidence are often inadmissible if officers did not properly Mirandize the defendant. Additionally, witnesses may only testify about the things they saw. Any other testimony is generally inadmissible hearsay. Furthermore, direct or indirect references to a defendant’s prior criminal record are usually inadmissible.
4. Prosecutorial Misconduct
Such misconduct could occur during the pretrial phase or the trial itself. Prosecutors have a duty to turn over exculpatory evidence to defense attorneys. Additionally, some new criminal discovery rules take effect in January 2020. When these rules take effect, prosecutors will also have a duty to turn over things like:
- All witness contact information and witness statements, whether or not these witnesses testify at trial,
- Electronic recordings, such as 911 calls,
- Search warrants, search warrant affidavits, and seized evidence inventories, and
- Any promises prosecutors made to a witness (g. we will not charge you with a crime if you turn state’s evidence).
During the trial, some prosecutors make inappropriate remarks during their arguments or use unacceptable criteria, such as race, to select jurors.
5. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
This appeal basis is not result-based. Defendants cannot argue that their lawyers were incompetent if they lose cases. Rather, the attorney’s misconduct must be so bad that it falls below the standard of care. Strategic matters, such as the failure to cross-examine witnesses, are usually not evidence of incompetence. Instead, the attorney must have usually been impaired in some way, such as drunk or on drugs. Professional impairment, such as a suspended law license, might also be grounds for appealing a conviction.
Contact a Dedicated Lawyer
A criminal conviction is not always the final word as to guilt or innocence. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.