Being convicted of a crime is always a devastating blow, both to the defendant and his or her loved ones. However, you should know that you have a right to challenge or appeal your sentence and conviction. This applies to both state and federal crimes, including disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) and indictable crimes (felonies). If your appeal is successful, potential outcomes include being granted a new trial, having your sentence shortened, or in rare cases, being released from jail or prison. Our criminal defense lawyers explain how the process works in New Jersey.
How to Start the New Jersey Criminal Appeals Process: Forms and Deadlines
If you’re thinking about going through the criminal appeals process, it’s extremely important to contact an experienced New Jersey appeals attorney sooner rather than later. If you wait for too long, you could lose your opportunity altogether.
Not only are the deadlines for filing a criminal appeal extremely short – just 45 days for Superior Court convictions (indictable crimes/felonies), 20 days for municipal court convictions (disorderly persons offenses/misdemeanors), and a mere 14 days for federal crimes (such as money laundering or mail and wire fraud) – they are also extremely rigid.
While it is not impossible to obtain a 30-day extension, it is simpler, more reliable, and more efficient simply to meet the original deadline. Remember, there is no guarantee that you will be granted an extension by the Appellate Division: you must demonstrate to the court that you had reasonable cause for exceeding the time limit. In the eyes of the court, being busy or forgetful are not valid excuses.
The process starts when your attorney files the Notice of Appeal on your behalf. (While you are not required to be represented by an attorney, self or “pro se” representation is strongly discouraged due to the rigor and complexity of the appeals process. Keep in mind that, in contrast to a criminal trial, the burden of proof falls on the appellant – not the prosecutor.) Your attorney will also take care of the other legal paperwork, such as briefs and motions, your Case Information Statement (CIS), and getting the court transcripts from your original trial.
Appellants should be prepared to pay the following fees:
- $250 filing fee for filing the Notice of Appeal
- $50 filing fee for filing a motion for leave to appeal
- $300 transcript deposit fee for each full or partial day of the trial or hearing
If the above fees are too much of a financial hardship, you can apply for a waiver.
What Happens if I Win My Appeal?
An appeal is not a new trial. The purpose of an appeal is to give the appellant an opportunity to prove that the lower court made a mistake or omission which unfairly impacted sentencing or conviction. Your attorney may be able to raise one or more of the following issues, depending on the circumstances of the original conviction:
- The jury did not receive proper instructions.
- New evidence has developed which would reduce or remove your criminal liability (exculpatory evidence).
- The judge improperly excluded or admitted evidence.
- You received an excessive, unreasonable sentence, or the judge otherwise failed to properly apply sentencing guidelines.
- The judge inappropriately granted or denied a pre-trial motion which negatively impacted the outcome of your case.
- Your case was negatively affected by prosecutorial misconduct and/or police misconduct.
There are a few different outcomes which can result from appealing. Your case may be remanded, which means it will be sent back to the original court for a new trial. Even if the original verdict stands, your sentence may be reduced. In rare instances, the appellant can even be released from jail or prison altogether.
Hearings and trials can be emotionally exhausting, and it’s normal to feel hesitant about going through the process all over again. While the decision is ultimately up to you and your family, just remember that the appeals process can give you the chance to prove your innocence with a new trial. Your attorney will help you evaluate your legal options and their potential outcomes so that you can make an informed decision about which course of action is right for you.
To start discussing your situation in a free, completely private legal consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away at (609) 616-4956. We have more than 45 years of combined experience representing clients throughout the state of New Jersey, including but not limited to Atlantic County, Cape May County, Camden County, Burlington County, and Ocean County. We handle a wide range of offenses, including sexual assault, drug crimes, and DWI/DUI. Se habla español.