Potential Reasons for Appeal
Potential issues on an appeal¹
- Was your indictment proper?
- Was the sentence received harsh and excessive?
- Was there sufficient evidence to convict you?
- Did the judge abuse his/her discretion?
- What is Double Jeopardy
- Did you receive effective assistance of counsel?
- Did the People violate Brady v. Maryland?
- Did the People fail to turn over Rosario material?
- Did the indictment charge two or more offenses under one count?
- Did the trial court allow evidence of uncharged criminal acts?
- Was your guilty plea knowing, voluntary and intelligent?
- Did the trial court improperly allow evidence of prior unrelated crimes?
Was your indictment proper?
An indictment is a formal written accusation of a crime that has been affirmed by a Grand Jury. In order for a Grand Jury to indict a person the evidence must be legally sufficient to establish that the person committed the offense charged and that the Grand Jury had reasonable cause, based upon competent and admissible evidence, to believe that the person committed the offense.
Was the sentence received harsh and excessive?
In the interest of justice an appellate court has discretion to determine that a sentence imposed was “harsh and excessive.” Some instances where the appellate courts use this discretion include, but are not limited to the following: where a trial court improperly admitted evidence of a defendant’s prior convictions; where the nature of the crime and a defendant’s threat to society do not warrant the sentence received; where a trial court improperly labeled a defendant as a predicate felon; or where a trial court abused it’s discretion when sentencing the defendant.
Was there sufficient evidence to convict you?
The standard for determining whether the evidence presented by the People was legally sufficient is “whether the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the People, could lead a rational trier of fact to conclude that the elements of the crime had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.²” Meaning the People must prove each and every element of a crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt.
Did the judge abuse his/her discretion?
A trial judge is afforded discretion in many aspects of a trial. However, while judicial discretion is allowed, it never means that a judge can impose its arbitrary will upon the defendant. Meaning a trial judge cannot arbitrarily make decisions concerning the course of the trial or the sentence imposed upon the defendant.
What is Double Jeopardy
The Double Jeopardy Clause provides three separate guarantees to a defendant:
- it protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after an acquittal
- it protects against a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction
- it protects against multiple punishments for the same offense
Did you receive effective assistance of counsel?
This question involves whether or not your attorney at trial provided you with adequate and effective representation during the trial process.The standard for ineffective assistance of counsel is that as long as the evidence, the law, and the circumstances of a particular case, viewed in totality of the circumstances, as of the time of the representation, reveal that the attorney provided meaningful representation, the constitutional requirement will have been met. The basic question is whether defendant received “meaningful representation” and did it prejudice the defendant’s right to a fair trial. ³
Did the People violate Brady v. Maryland?
The People have a duty to disclose, before trial, any information or evidence that is favorable to a defendant’s case. Violation of this duty violates a defendant’s due process rights.
Did the People fail to turn over Rosario material?
Under the Rosario rule, the People must provide at trial to the defense any materials in the People’s possession which contains prior material statements of a prosecution witness. If the People fail to provide Rosario material it may be considered reversible error on appeal.4
Did the indictment charge two or more offenses under one count?
An indictment can only charge one crime. If a single count within an indictment charges more than one it is considered duplicitous and invalid. The only way it is valid is if the crime is considered continuous, occurring over a period of time.
Did the trial court allow evidence of uncharged criminal acts?
The introduction of uncharged criminal acts, for the purpose of showing a defendant has a propensity to commit a type of crime, is prohibited in NY.
Was your guilty plea knowing, voluntary and intelligent?
In order to invalidate a guilty plea it must be established the defendant did not enter the plea knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently. Meaning the trial court must establish that the defendant knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waived some of, but not limited to, the following: the right to self incrimination; the right to jury trial; and the right to confront witnesses. The trial court must also elicit from the defendant that they actually committed every element of the crime in which they are pleading guilty and that they have had an opportunity to speak with their counsel regarding the terms and conditions to be imposed.
Did the trial court improperly allow evidence of prior unrelated crimes?
A defendant is protected from self incrimination. Therefore, a defendant is entitled to a pretrial ruling to determine whether evidence of pending unrelated criminal charges is precluded from use by the prosecution for credibility purposes during cross-examining if the defendant takes the stand.
¹Some of the information was obtained from the Criminal Procedure Law
²People v. Gassett, 4 Misc. 3d 1015A (Sup. Ct., Bronx Co. 2004).
³People v. Baldi, 54 NY2d 157 (1981).
4People v. Wahad, 154 Misc.2d 405 (Sup. Ct. NY Co. 1993).
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