The first phase of the criminal case is completed at sentencing. Either you have gone to trial and been convicted and sentenced or you have pled guilty and been sentenced. There are complicated and unforgiving timetables, established by law, as to what must happen next.
In Louisiana, criminal cases have what is known as a "record appeal." This means that a court reviewing what has happened, either before or during trial or a plea of guilty, can only look to events that are actually part of the record. If a motion was filed and a hearing was held resulting in an adverse ruling made by the judge, you can appeal it to a higher court but may only urge, as grounds for relief, things that are actually contained in the record.
If your trial lawyer did not object to something that occurred at trial that should have been objected to, you may have lost the right to raise that issue on appeal (more on that, later).
If you are in state court and you are convicted or plead guilty, your first appeal is to one of five courts of appeal in Louisiana depending upon what region of the state your trial court is located. If you lose or the state loses in the court of appeal, a writ of certiorari may be taken to the Louisiana Supreme Court. The Louisiana Supreme Court may, but is not required to, hear your case. They can simply refuse to accept and hear the case and that exhausts your remedies in the Louisiana appellate court system.
Essentially, the same process exists for federal courts in Louisiana – there are three districts: Western, Middle and Eastern, and all of them have appeals heard in the same court, the Fifth Circuit Court of United States Appeals. The Fifth Circuit also only hears "record appeals."
Courts are reluctant to reverse criminal convictions or reduce sentences imposed by district court judges. Your lawyer must first obtain the record of the case and then carefully review it. Hearings held on motions that were filed, such as motions for discovery or to suppress a confession or challenge the search of a house or a car, are all things that could be taken up on appeal if the trial judge rules against you.
Our office employs carefully selected law clerks to assist with the research to find precedents from previous cases that will help the appeal. Often times we are presented with unique cases in which there are few precedents or if the precedents exist, they are adverse to our client. Appellate advocacy involves convincing appellate court judges that previous rulings support the defendant or that previous rulings which are not favorable to the defendant are either different than your case or should be overruled as improperly decided.
Some appeals are extremely complicated and involve numerous issues. Other appeals might be very simple involving one or two issues.
It is not necessary that the lawyer who handled your trial also handle your appeal. It is sometimes difficult for a trial lawyer to act as an appeal lawyer in the same case they handled and often times I am asked to take an appeal for a case that another lawyer has handled.
When should you hire a criminal defense attorney?Anyone who has been arrested or charged with committing a crime will undoubtedly need the help of a New Orleans Criminal Defense Attorney. Many individuals facing criminal charges delay finding a qualified attorney until there is no other option, which can be a big mistake. There are undoubtedly many important things happening at once when charges are made that must be handled; however, the first thing that should be done is to find legal counsel. Most criminal defense attorneys would stress that the outcome of the case may very well depend on early attorney representation.
Researching and finding a good New Orleans Criminal Defense Lawyer as early in the process as possible is recommended when someone has been arrested and is facing possible criminal charges. This is especially true immediately after being arrested but before formal charges have been filed as many times attorneys can negotiate a dismissal before any charges are actually made. The key to taking advantage of such an opportune time is getting legal representation immediately after the arrest.
If charges have been made, it is still vital to find legal representation right away to improve having a more positive outcome. Any negotiating prior to authorization of charges, plea bargaining, or other discussion about dropping or lessening charges is more likely to happen in the early stages of a case rather than after charges have been finalized. A criminal defense attorney will know if there may be bargaining room with the prosecutor after hearing an account of the arrest as well as know how to proceed from that point.
Hire a New Orleans Criminal Defense Attorney Today!!!