Have you been convicted in a Massachusetts criminal case - either a misdemeanor or felony? This is a stressful time, but you still have several legal options to appeal and continue to fight for your personal freedom. And it is advised that you do so: There are few criminal cases that were tried perfectly and had no legal errors. With the help of an effective Massachusetts criminal appeals attorney, you may be able to attain a successful result yet.
You have a right in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to have your criminal case reviewed by a higher court, possibly the Appeals Court or the Supreme Judicial Court. There, any erroneous rulings by the judge of the lower court could be argued on the law or on evidence. Other areas to probe for mistakes include the conduct of the prosecutor during the case, or even how your attorney handled the case, if mistakes were made.
Criminal Appeals Can Touch on Many Issues in Massachusetts
A Massachusetts criminal appeal to challenge a variety of legal and administrative matters. Some of them could have taken place before the criminal trial. For example, your attorney could have made a motion to dismiss that should have been granted. Or, the state prosecutor may have withheld evidence. Another possibility is a motion to suppress was denied improperly by the judge. That could have vastly changed your fortunes in the trials and could have directly led to your conviction.
In some cases, your criminal defense attorney may have failed to represent you to a high standard, failed to offer vital evidence to the jury, or did not call important witnesses in your defense. There even could be new evidence that you didn't know about until you were convicted. If this is so, the court should give you a new trial that considers the new evidence.
Criminal Appeal Could Challenge Events in Trial
A appeal of your Massachusetts criminal conviction also could challenge many things that happened during your trial. Common problems in Massachusetts criminal trials include:
- Judicial mistakes on rule or law or evidence
- Change in the law on legal issues that were applied on a retrospective basis
- Evidence that was mistakenly admitted or was extremely prejudicial
- Errors that happened during the selection of the jury, or other related juror issues that happened during trial
- Inappropriate questioning or arguments by state prosecutors
- Mistakes and omissions by your defense attorney
- Juror was allowed to serve even though he had biases
- Jury instructions were incorrect
- A juror did independent research on a police officer, defendant or attorney in the case
- Jury considered evidence it was barred from considering
- Sentence was unduly harsh or did not conform with that which was agreed upon during your plea
Your attorney will work with you and read the court transcript to determine if any of the above mistakes were made.
What Happens During a Criminal Appeal in Massachusetts
If the Massachusetts Appeals Court or Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court believes the evidence at trial was not sufficient to secure a conviction - such as certain evidence should not have been admitted or serious legal procedural errors were made - the criminal conviction may be reversed and a new trial can be required.
The appellate court could rule that vital evidence was admitted on an improper basis or was prejudicial, and that the government cannot introduce it during a new trial. In some cases, this may prevent the state prosecutor from having a case on you and you could be free.
Timelines for Criminal Appeal Process
If you believe you were improperly convicted talk to your attorney about filing a notice of appeal. But know that your appeal needs to be filed within 30 days after conviction. So, time is of the essence. The sooner you contact an experienced criminal appeals attorney such as Geoffrey Nathan, the sooner the case can be assembled. Your attorney will order a court transcript, assemble all your legal records and analyze your case.
What Happens After Notice of Appeal Is Filed?
Usually a criminal appeals case goes to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. However, a first degree murder conviction is sent directly to the Supreme Judicial Court. The Appeals Court will conduct a review of all briefs after they were filed. The court will decide if there will be an oral argument with a panel of three appeals court judges, or if it will make a decision on the briefs and an oral argument is not needed. In most criminal appeals, they will allow oral argument, so you should have an excellent criminal appeals attorney to present the case.
During this appeal, an agreement could be reached with the prosecuting attorney. A motion to revise and revoke can occur when each attorney agrees to a reduced sentence, rather than going through the lengthy appeals process. If you entered a plea bargain during your trial, you would then have your attorney bring a motion to pull that plea. In a few cases, the conviction could be overturned.
If you are unsuccessful at the state appellate level with your appeal, you may also petition the Supreme Judicial Court in an application for more appellate review. This application will detail why the decision of the appeals court was a mistake. If three of the seven judges on the Supreme Judicial Court agree the case should be heard, your appeals case could be heard by the court.
What to Do If You Want to Appeal
If you face a state or federal charge from the federal government or the state of Massachusetts, you should obtain a strong criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. If you are attempting a criminal appeal, you want a strong legal advocate in your corner to fight for you against the vast resources of the state and federal governments.
Attorney Geoffrey Nathan has many years of success making effective criminal appeals on the behalf of his clients. Attorney Nathan will be best best legal advocate for you during this stressful time. For a criminal defense legal consultation, please contact him at (617) 472-5775.