Last week, we began a discussion about the appeals process in criminal cases. As we noted in our first post, a defendant must have a legitimate reason for appealing his conviction. Most often, cases are appealed on the grounds that a serious error was made during the initial trial - serious enough to affect the outcome of the case.
Not all criminal defense attorneys have the skills and experience needed to help clients through an appeal. In fact, some criminal appeals are based on the allegation that a defendant's original attorney jeopardized the verdict through mistakes or incompetence. To file an appeal in such cases is to claim "ineffective assistance of counsel."
In order to be granted an appeal, you need to demonstrate not only that your original attorney made serious mistakes or was incompetent, but also that these mistakes/incompetence were responsible for the negative outcome of your trial. It can be a difficult standard to meet, but certainly not impossible.
Here are some examples of signs that you may have received ineffective assistance of counsel:
- Your attorney is corrected by prosecutors or the judge for misunderstanding/misusing legal procedures and legal terminology
- Your attorney did not collaborate with you or even return messages
- Your attorney made significant decisions without first discussing them with you
- Your attorney was irresponsible about basic details such as filing notices on time
- Your attorney behaved in an unprofessional manner and it was noticed by the jury, judge or others involved with the case
Sadly, ineffective assistance of counsel sometimes occurs because defendants are represented by overworked public defenders who don't give the case the time and attention it deserves. If a public defender misses important details or makes big mistakes that jeopardize their client's case, this could potentially be grounds for an appeal.
If you were convicted of a crime and believe that an appeal is necessary, don't entrust your case to just any attorney. Please seek the help of a law firm with extensive appellate experience.