Five Grounds for a Successful Criminal Appeal in Florida
As DNA evidence becomes even more readily available and reliable, an increasing number of prison inmates are using this evidence to seek justice in court and obtain their freedom. Lawmakers may soon change the rules to streamline these proceedings.
But such claims are usually only available in what seems to be extremely violent cases, like rape or murder. However, the vast majority of criminal cases in Hillsborough County are either less violent or entirely non-violent at all. A diligent Tampa criminal appeals and post-conviction attorney can still review your case and determine any grounds for appeal. In many cases, you may have legal options to pursue under the rules of procedure.
In most dated convictions DNA evidence is typically new evidence for the courts to consider in the matter. New evidence matters are rather difficult to win. Improper evidence is a different matter and often presents compelling legal issues to argue on appeal. Physical evidence, like weapons or drugs, as well as testimonial evidence from witnesses must pass muster under the rules of evidence. If the evidence has been improperly allowed and a timely objection was made at trial, then an appellate lawyer can argue the improperly admitted evidence should not have been presented to the jury and therefore the jury verdict of guilty should be vacated.
Many times, police officers enter dwellings and/or seize evidence without search warrants. Unless the search or seizure fits into a narrow search warrant exception, the illegally-obtained evidence is inadmissible. Additionally, search warrants must meet strict probable cause and other procedural requirements. If these issues have been properly preserved for appeal then there is much work to be done on the direct appeal.
Testimonial evidence, especially from police officers, may be grounds for appeal as well. Sometimes, officers testify about what they saw, and other times, they testify about their interpretations. Those interpretations are only admissible in limited situations and also raise important appellate issues.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
The Sixth Amendment does not just guarantee the right to a lawyer. It guarantees the right to an effective lawyer. Effective lawyers diligently investigate the case, challenge inadmissible evidence, prepare their legal defenses, and so on.
If the attorney’s representation fell below the standard of care, that could be the basis for a successful appeal.
Jurors take oaths to consider only the evidence presented in the trial and discuss the case only with their fellow jurors. They cannot conduct their own investigations or talk with other people about the case.
In the social media era, jurors often violate both of these oaths. It is very easy to Google a defendant and see what other allegations are out there, especially regarding the defendant’s criminal history. It’s also very easy to go onto Facebook and read comments from other people about the events in question.
It’s almost impossible to win insufficient evidence appeals in a negligence, contract, or other civil case. The burden of proof (a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not) is too low.
But criminal cases are different. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard is much higher and more well-defined. Juries cannot legally convict defendants because of the bad things they did in the past or other matters not directly related to the evidence presented at trial.
Most prosecutors are honest, hard-working people. However like with any profession, there are plenty of bad apples. Some only want to obtain convictions at the expense of the truth to enhance their careers and reputations as tough prosecutors.
Before the trial, a shady prosecutor may conceal evidence favorable to the defendant or pursue cases for political, racial, or other non-judicial reasons. It happens unfortunately and legal history is littered with case examples.
During trial, mostly during jury arguments, prosecutors sometimes make improper, objectionable arguments. The only issue is the guilt or innocence of the defendant. If a prosecutor urges jurors to “send a message to people in the projects,” that’s probably illegal. Furthermore, prosecutors sometimes exclude certain people from juries because of their race or gender.
Reach Out to Dedicated Lawyers
A court’s pronouncement of “guilty” may not be the last word in a criminal case. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Tampa, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.
Nicholas Gianni Matassini is Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law by the Florida Bar. He handles trial and post-conviction/appeals in both State and Federal courts.