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Understanding the basis for a criminal appeal

Going through criminal proceedings can be an emotional and nerve wrecking time. Defendants are often unsure if they are taking the right steps, and they are certainly nervous that the results will be unfavorable. Defendants in New York and other states should note, however, that there are options available to defendants even after a criminal conviction. It is possible to make an appeal for the criminal charge or charges they were convicted of.

In order to determine if an appeal is an appropriate step for you, the basis for an appeal should be understood. In other words, a defendant should be aware if they have grounds to file an appeal or not. This will help the defendant fully understand if they have exhausted all their resources and whether or not they could obtain a favorable decision in an appeal.

If a defendant is asserting that an error was made in a lower court, it is possible that this could be ground for an appeal. However, if it is determined to be a harmless error or an error that is unlikely to make a substantial impact on the results of the trial, these are likely not grounds for reversing the judgment of the lower court.

If harmless errors are ruled out, there are four basic grounds for an appeal. First, the lower court made a serious error of law. This is also called a plain error. Second, the weight of the evidence does not support the verdict made by the jury or court. Third, the lower court abused its discretion in making an errant ruling. Fourth, there was an ineffective assistance of counsel, which falls under the Sixth Amendment.

If a defendant is able to prove any of these basic grounds for an appeal, he or she might be successful with their appeal. This in turn could help them reverse their conviction, helping them avoid serious penalties associated with the crime. Those unsure of whether or not to file an appeal should take the time to speak with an attorney. This could help a defendant understand all the criminal defense options available to them.

Source: Findlaw.com, "The Basis for a Criminal Appeal," accessed Dec. 26, 2016

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