I’ve Been Convicted: Can I do anything now?
You can. A conviction is not necessarily the final word on your case. And generally, you have a right to an appeal and a right to seek other post-judgment relief.
There are several post-conviction options, including direct appeals and applications for post-conviction relief. A direct appeal challenges defects in the trial, such as the improper admission of certain evidence against you, incorrect jury charges, or an excessive sentence. An application for post-conviction relief is a collateral attack on the conviction, challenging an issue that could not or was not addressed during the original trial.
These options are not just for people who have gone through the trial process. If you pleaded guilty instead of going to trial, you are still allowed to appeal your conviction or challenge your conviction through the post-conviction relief process. But you must act quickly: appeals must be filed within forty-five days from the date the Judgment of Conviction is entered (usually your sentencing date). You may not be sure whether a direct appeal or a post-conviction relief application is appropriate. To be safe, engage with appellate counsel as soon as possible so that none of your options are foreclosed to you.
I want to appeal my conviction. What happens next?
A lot of writing and research. No matter what court you are appealing from, the next step involves the attorneys on both sides reading the transcripts of the pretrial proceedings and the trial and identifying the major issues. They will research those issues, relying on caselaw from other, similar cases. The result of this intensive review is an appellate brief that crystallizes the main points the attorney is arguing on appeal.
The pathway your case takes through the court system depends on where you were convicted. If you were convicted of a municipal offense, such as a DUI/DWI or a disorderly persons offense, your appeal takes place at the Superior Court in that county. There, a Superior Court judge will probably hold oral argument for the attorneys. There are no witnesses, because the Superior Court judge is largely limited to the municipal judge’s factual findings. After oral argument and reading the briefs, the Superior Court judge will issue a decision. After a decision, either side may appeal to the Superior Court, Appellate Division (or just “Appellate Division).
If you were convicted in the Superior Court, your appeal goes to the Appellate Division. Whether you were convicted in municipal court or Superior Court does not matter by the time you are in the Appellate Division. Once your case is in the Appellate Division, a panel of two or three judges will review the briefs. There may be oral argument, depending on whether any of the attorneys request it or if the panel wishes to hold oral argument. Again, there are no witnesses. After reviewing the briefs and any oral argument, the Appellate Division issues its decision. Again, either side may appeal this decision.
Finally, the case could go to the New Jersey Supreme Court. There, all seven justices will review the briefs and hold mandatory oral argument. Often, when a case goes to the New Jersey Supreme Court, the eventual holding in the case will apply to everyone in the State of New Jersey. Consequently, the briefs and oral argument often cover public policy considerations in addition to the facts and issues in your case. Needless to say, a great deal of research, writing, and preparation goes into a New Jersey Supreme Court case.
Former Prosecutors with Experience at Every Level of the New Jersey Judiciary
The former prosecutors at The Bianchi Law Group, LLC have collective experience at every level of the New Jersey Judiciary, from municipal court to the New Jersey Supreme Court. This broad range of experience means our appeals are grounded in practical concerns and tailored to your matter. In other words, we fight for your interests when we pursue appellate or other post-judgment litigation.
The attorneys at The Bianchi Law Group, LLC have crossover experience. Our trial lawyers have argued or clerked for the appellate courts, and our appellate team has pretrial and trial litigation experience. Everyone understands the preparation that goes into a successful trial and a thorough appeal. And our team-based approach to every case melds the best that both types of New Jersey criminal defense attorneys have to offer: the real-world perspective of trial lawyers melded with the research and writing skills developed by appellate attorneys.
How can an appellate attorney help me before I have gone to trial?
The help appellate attorneys offer is not limited to the appellate process. Appellate attorneys are expert issue spotters, since they have seen it all in their research. As a result, pretrial litigation is thorough. Every issue that can be raised on your behalf will be, and our appellate team helps quarterback the pretrial strategy.
Another benefit to having an appellate attorney involved in your case at an early stage is the ability to quickly appeal interlocutory (mid-litigation) decisions. If the judge in your case issues an unfavorable decision, an appellate lawyer can help you make the call about whether to appeal the decision or move for reconsideration before the trial judge, as well as what arguments you want to raise. Having an appellate lawyer involved from the beginning gives our client an edge in these fast-paced proceedings and helps preserve all of the issues in your case.
Perhaps most importantly, involving a criminal defense team that includes attorneys with appellate experience means that the pretrial submissions will be thoroughly researched and persuasively written. Appellate attorneys are research and writing specialists and relentlessly prepare for oral argument. Having an appellate lawyer involved early in your matter assures puts these skills to use in the trial court. Appellate attorneys multiply to firepower your criminal defense team brings to the courtroom arena.
If you are interested in appealing or challenging your conviction, time is of the essence, because you are limited to forty-five days to file notice of your appeal. To ensure all of your post-judgment options, get started by engaging with appellate counsel immediately. Do not delay.
Call The Bianchi Law Group, LLC at 862-210-8570 or use our online scheduler to set up a free consultation today to learn more about your post-judgment options.