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Basis for appealing a criminal conviction or sentence

The results of a criminal trial are not always the final say in a criminal case. If a defendant does not agree with the conviction, an appeal could be filed regarding the conviction or the sentence.

What is the basis for appealing a criminal conviction or sentence? When a defendant seeks to file an appeal, the defendant must demonstrate that an error was likely made at the trial court level. Moreover, the error must have been substantial. If it is determined that the error was harmless or one that is unlikely to have made a substantial impact on the result of the trial, it is unlikely that this will serve as a basis for appeal.

There are two major grounds for appeal. First, the lower court made a serious error. This is also referred to as plain error. Even if these errors were not brought up during the trial of the lower court, these errors affecting the defendant's substantial rights could form a basis for appeal. Also, many of these errors might go unnoticed during the trial process, only being uncovered after the verdict has been rendered.

The second basis is that the weight of the evidence in the case does not support the verdict. This can be more difficult to show in the appeal process, and it requires the appellate court to review the transcript of the trials. Unfortunately, this often means that the appellate court will never hear the actual testimony of the witnesses, the presentation of evidence or the opening arguments of the parties. In order to be successful with this ground for appeal, the error or misjudgment of evidence must be egregious.

Filing for an appeal can be a difficult decision to make. Defendants should understand the grounds for an appeal and how to go about the process. All defendants are afforded criminal defense rights and should be fully aware of these options in order to make informed decisions.

Source: Criminal.findlaw.com, "The Basis for a Criminal Appeal," accessed Sept. 14, 2015

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