A conviction for a criminal offense can impact your life for years to come. Even after paying your price to society, a conviction is bound to remain on your record for the rest of your life, unless you expunge it, of course.
Fortunately, a criminal conviction isn’t always the end of the road. The law allows you to appeal a conviction under certain circumstances. Depending on the circumstances of your case, a successful appeal may lead to a retrial, an alteration of the verdict or a reversal of your conviction. But when exactly can you appeal a criminal conviction?
How criminal appeal works
To understand when you may appeal a conviction, it helps to start by explaining how the criminal appeal process works.
Basically, a criminal appeal is not a new trial. Rather, it is a petition to a higher court (known as an appellate court) to review what happened during your trial. During the appeal, you will be arguing that specific errors impacted the outcome of your case. Consequently, you will be asking the appellate court to determine whether you should be retried and resentenced.
Here are two instances when you may appeal a criminal conviction:
If you did not receive proper representation
During your arrest, you probably heard the police say, among other things, that “you have a right to legal representation.” Well, those are not mere words. You do have a right to representation during your trial as provided for by the Sixth Amendment. If you were not adequately represented or had no legal representation at all, you may appeal your conviction.
If new evidence emerges
Your criminal case will be won or lost on account of the evidence the prosecution presents against you. Thus, if new evidence comes to the surface, or if it emerges that the prosecution or the trial court overlooked crucial evidence, like DNA, then you may appeal your conviction.
Protecting your rights
Sometimes, a conviction may not be the end of your case. Based on the circumstances of your case, you may appeal the verdict.