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When can I appeal the verdict in my criminal trial?

After sitting through hours or days of testimony, refuting the evidence and presenting your defense, you may have felt confident as you waited for the verdict. In any criminal matter, there is a lot on the line, whether this is your first offense, or you already have a record.

If a Florida judge or jury found you guilty of a crime, you may have been shocked. Perhaps you felt that the evidence against you was not strong enough to land you a conviction, or you thought of something else you could tell the judge that might turn the verdict in your direction. Your first impulse may be to seek an appeal. However, do you understand what the appeals process is and how it works in your case?

Grounds for appeal

The judicial system does not guarantee everyone a perfect trial. It also does not allow everyone to appeal a verdict simply because they disagree with it or wish it had been different. If that were the case, the courts would be even more clogged than they currently are. The appeals process does not allow you to ask a new court to re-try your case. If you want to appeal a court decision, you must have certain grounds:

  • Plain error: The judge, an attorney or the jury violated your rights with an obvious, serious mistake that an attorney should have objected to or did object to but a judge sustained; for example, admitting evidence that the judge should have excluded or miscalculating your sentence.
  • Judge's abuse of discretion: The judge did not base his or her rulings on reason, the facts of the case or the law, but made random decisions that negatively affected the outcome of your case.
  • Attorney's inadequate representation: Your attorney failed to defend you effectively, and those actions directly influenced the results.
  • Weight of the evidence: The evidence against you did not meet the burden of proof to convict you.

It may be most difficult to win an appeal based on insufficient evidence, since the appellate court may not even see the evidence in your case. Often, the panel of judges that hears an appeal receives only transcripts of the case. They may not view the evidence, and they will certainly not hear witness testimony. This is why it is important to have a skilled attorney assisting you in preparing your appeal, no matter what grounds you intend to claim.

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