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Grounds for Appeal: Understanding the Basis for Challenging Legal Decisions

While there are several measures in place to ensure that trial courts operate fairly and reach proper outcomes, the system isn’t perfect. There are times when a defendant is wrongfully convicted. Even if a conviction is lawful, the sentencing is not always in line with the crimes committed.

Fortunately, there may be some legal recourse for those who find themselves in these situations. Problems in trial courts need to be identified and addressed. To serve this need, the judicial system has created a means of appeal. However, there is a specific process that must be followed to make an appeal, and not every case is eligible. It is important to understand the capabilities of the appeal process.

What Is an Appeal?

An appeal allows those convicted in a lower court to make a case to the higher court, stating that the proceedings of the lower court did not live up to the standards of the justice system. There could be concerns regarding the judge, the jury, the evidence used, or other problems.

To appeal, the convicted will need to make a petition to the appellate courts. Not every petition is approved, and in most cases, the court has the ability to decide whether they would like to hear an appeal. Cases involving a death sentence are an exception, as all states with the death penalty will automatically hear appeals from those facing a death sentence.

The appellant, appellee, and their legal counsel may make oral arguments as to why the court should uphold or reverse the initial decision. Once the appellate court hears an appeal, they will render a decision that may either uphold the lower court’s decision, overturn the lower court’s decision, or return the case to the lower courts for further proceedings, such as resentencing. However, beforehand, the appellate courts must choose to hear the appeal, which they will not do without sufficient “grounds” for an appeal.

Grounds for an Appeal

Grounds for an appeal are the reason that someone is submitting an appeal to a higher court. They are the error, mistake, or problem they believe occurred in a lower court, which led to an incorrect or unfair outcome. There are many potential grounds for an appeal, but an appellate court will only hear a case if they have reason to believe a problem may have occurred in the lower court. There are some types of grounds that are more common than others.

One common legal argument often used to seek an appeal is that of “plain error.” This position argues that the lower court made an error of law. This is a broad category of concerns that could range from miscalculating sentences to failing to properly uphold the accused’s constitutional rights.

Those who are standing trial for a crime have rights described in the U.S. Constitution. These rights have an impact on the evidence that can be used in court. For instance, defendants have a right against unlawful searches and seizures. When this is violated, the evidence collected unlawfully should not be used in the prosecution’s case. If it is allowed, this could serve as grounds for an appeal.

Those accused of a crime also have a right to a speedy trial. Therefore, if the lower court failed to meet this requirement, an appellate court may hear an appeal. Juror misconduct could also lead to an unfair conviction.

Other common grounds for appeal are ineffective assistance of counsel. Adequate representation is another right of the accused according to the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The key to proving these grounds is showing that the counsel the defendant received was ineffective and had a material impact on the outcome of the trial. Their representation was so poor that the proceedings were unjust, and a different outcome would have likely resulted from sufficient representation.

Understanding whether you may have grounds for an appeal can be a complicated process. When trying to identify potential grounds for your case or that of someone close to you, it’s important to have legal assistance.

NLPA Helps with Appeals

At NLPA, we are prepared to assist those who could need to appeal their conviction or sentencing. While we don’t offer legal representation, we work with those unfairly convicted and their lawyers. If the defendant needs new counsel, we can refer him to a lawyer to represent him in the court of Appeals and have NLPA’s lawyers assist him in writing the brief. Our team assists in evaluating their cases and identifying strategic approaches for correcting unfair outcomes. If you or someone you care about has been wrongfully convicted or even given an overly harsh sentence for their conviction, contact our team to discuss your options.


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