If you were convicted of a crime, should you appeal? It depends. You can't just appeal because you don't like the decision. Among the common reasons for appeals in a criminal trial is the violation of someone's Constitutional right to a fair trial. The Constitution has a number of provisions protecting people from unfair trials. Does one of these apply to you?
Right to Legal Counsel
In the U.S., you have the right to legal counsel from the moment you're arrested. If you can't afford a lawyer, one should be provided for you. Not only must you be informed you have this right, once you've asked for an attorney, you must be allowed to speak with one before you can be questioned further.
Right to Due Process
Due process ensures that you receive notice of the charges against you. It also ensures you have a hearing about the charges.
Freedom from Self-Incrimination
When you're accused of a crime, you can't be forced to testify against yourself — you've likely heard people talk about "pleading the Fifth" before, and that's what this amendment states. This applies to both police questioning and at trial.
Freedom from Excessive Bail
While bail itself is legal, the constitution prohibits excessive bail. The purpose of this is to ensure a defendant retains enough freedom while the charges are pending to assist their legal defense in putting together the case in a meaningful way.
Right to a Jury Trial
Each criminal defendant has the right to be tried by a jury of their peers. While you have the right to wave that right for a bench trial, but a jury trial is often recommended because it ensures more than one person hears the evidence and that the lawyers can interview the jurors prior to the trial to dismiss those who may have some kind of bias that could negatively impact you.
Right to Confront Your Accuser
The right to confront your accuser essentially means that you have the right to cross-examine any witnesses testifying against you.
Right to Present a Defense
Not only do you have the right to confront your accuser, you have the right to present evidence and witnesses on your own behalf.
Indigent Defense Services
An extension of your right to counsel, this program ensures the defense of those charged with capital offenses is undertaken by qualified lawyers and that you have the resources available to mount an appropriate defense. In the past, defendants haven't received fair trials because lawyers had too little time to prepare, simply didn't adequately prepare and even sometimes admitted to heavy drinking during the trial. You are still always free to hire your own attorney if you want to ensure the best defense possible, even if you're already part of the way through the process with an appointed attorney.
What Are the Chances I Can Win an Appeal?
It's hard to say because it depends on the circumstances. Only a lawyer who's familiar with your case can advise you on whether there are grounds to appeal. That being said, you shouldn't make assumptions about your own case just because these rights seem so fundamental. Don't assume you automatically got a fair trial because surely the judge and lawyers know the rules. While they seem cut and dry, there are gray areas and subtleties in criminal law. Always make sure you consult with a qualified attorney, who can go through your case in detail to uncover any potential red flags.
If you've been convicted of a crime in Kissimmee, Florida, and think you may not have gotten a fair trial, the criminal defense attorneys at Draper Law Offices can look at your case to see if there could be issues to appeal.
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