Believe it or not, if you are sentenced to prison, you have the right to appeal your sentence. You can appeal your prison sentence if you believe you were wrongfully convicted, your sentence was too harsh, or the judge was incorrect. You can appeal the court’s decision on your sentence.
An appeal can take anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the speed of your court, and can cost between $20,000 and $50,000.
Almost anyone can appeal their sentence, but if you plead guilty on your own or as part of a plea bargain, you will be unable to appeal your conviction. If you are unable to file an appeal, there are other ways to reduce your sentence.
Why You Might Want to Appeal Your Sentencing
So you want to file an appeal, but is your case eligible? You may file an appeal for any of the reasons listed below.
- False arrest
If you are convicted of a crime of which you are falsely arrested, this is a legal defense for appealing a criminal conviction.
- Incorrect jury instructions
When the judge does not correctly instruct the jury about the application of the law.
- Improper admission or exclusion of evidence
If during the early trial the judge doesn’t approve vital evidence, an attorney can bring this up during appeal.
- Lack of sufficient evidence
If a defendant is convicted guilty with no evidence that proves beyond reasonable doubt their fault, this could mean jury convicted on emotion or prejudice.
- Juror misconduct
One of the easiest ways to prove an appeal. Essentially a juror was breaking one of the rules jurors must follow during the trial.
- Sentencing errors
This can happen if you’re being sentenced for multiple crimes. If the judge sentences you consecutively instead of concurrently or vis versa, this can be grounds for an appeal.
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
If your lawyer was not competent enough for your case or not working as effectively as one should.
- Unethical acts by the prosecutor
If the prosecutor was incompetent, used false evidence, said something they were not allowed too during the trial.
- Harsh sentencing
If you received an extreme sentence (way longer than usual) for your crime.
- Wrongly convicted
You did not commit the crime you were convicted and sentenced for.
What Can Happen If You Appeal Your Sentence
When appealing your sentence, a few things can occur. If your appeal is denied, your case will most likely stay the same. The judge can also keep your conviction the same and send you back to trial court for different sentencing. As well, the judge would remove your conviction altogether and send you back for a completely new trial.
Some people can be out on bail while their appeal is pending if their crime is not too severe and the judge feels it is okay. At the end of the day, appealing your sentence can be a lengthy and a lot of work. Always remember to consult with an attorney if you’re thinking about appealing your sentence.
How to Appeal Your Prison Sentence
Before I go over the steps for filing an appeal, keep in mind that you must file your appeal within 30 days of your sentencing.
- Speak with a lawyer or attorney about your rights and whether your case has a legitimate basis for an appeal. You want to make certain that you are not wasting your time and that your case will not be dismissed despite your efforts.
- As soon as possible, have your attorney file a notice of appeal.
- Go over all court documents with your lawyer and try to come up with an amicable reason for an appeal.
- Submit an opening brief summarizing what went wrong in your case and how they messed it up.
- Oral argument. The court of appeals will hear arguments from both your lawyer and the lawyers opposing your appeal. They will discuss whether or not mistakes were made during your conviction and/or sentencing.
- Based on the oral argument, the court of appeals will issue a written decision. If your appeal is denied, you can consult with your lawyer about your next steps. If it is accepted, you will be assigned to a new trial.
Tips for When Appealing Your Sentence
Here are a few tips that can help you when appealing your sentence.
- Look into multiple lawyers. The one who represented you during your trial may not be the best one to represent you during your appeal.
- Spend a lot of time in your prison law library. Reading up on how this stuff works can help you better understand exactly what you need to be prepared for in your appeal.
- Read into the court documents from your trial. While your lawyer is doing this as well, it doesn’t hurt for you to see if you find anything your lawyer didn’t.
- Develop your strongest point rather than a bunch of smaller ones. This will stand out most to the court of appeals.
Other Ways to Reduce Your Sentence
So, even if your appeal was denied, there are other options for reducing your sentence. The first step would be to file another appeal. Depending on the level of court where your trial was held, you may only appeal once. For example, if your trial was in a lower court, such as a city or county court, you can appeal to the next highest court each time.
Another option is to turn over any information you have on another crime. If you have information on another crime or criminal, you must notify your lawyer as soon as possible. They will then go to the prosecutor and work with them if the prosecutor agrees to reduce the sentence for information.
Finish any court challenges. Volunteering in the community and working while incarcerated are examples of community service. Make an effort to be on your best behavior at all times. This may result in a reduction in your sentence.
Look into rehabilitation programs that can be used to reduce your sentence. If you have a history of abuse before being incarcerated, this can be very beneficial to you when you get out.
Filing an appeal can be a long game of waiting that can pay off in your favor. At the end of the day, if you’re taking the right steps, your sentence can’t get any worse than it is. When considering an appeal, the best advice anyone could give you is to contact a lawyer right away.