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What is the proper basis for appealing a criminal conviction?

New Jersey residents may wish to know more about how they can appeal a criminal conviction. Depending on the specific facts of the case, there could be grounds for overturning the verdict.

Because the U.S. court system has a preference for respecting the decisions of a lower court, it can be difficult to overturn those verdicts through appeals. There are only two major types of errors that allow a person to appeal. The first is when the lower court made a clear mistake regarding the law. The second situation is where the evidence shown did not support the final verdict in the trial.

When the error of law made in the trial seriously affects the rights of the defendant, this could be the basis for appealing the verdict. Generally, it does not matter whether or not the court was given notice of the error during the trial. This first type of error is easier to prove than the second. Due to the fact that an appellate court will not hear new witness testimony, the appealing party may have difficulty in showing that the evidence was insufficient. The appellate court will, however, read over transcripts and other trial documents. The error must be large enough that it is obvious from looking at these materials.

Most importantly, the error present in the original trial must be significant enough to have made an impact in the case. Such errors in the case will not be grounds for an appeal of the verdict.

Every person's specific situation has different facts, so this article should not be seen as specific legal advice. An attorney with experience in appeals may be able to help assess the situation and determine the appropriate course of action. They may also be able to represent the person throughout the appeals process.

Source: Findlaw, "Criminal Appeals", Jan. 9, 2015

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