New Jersey Criminal Appeals Lawyer
Receiving a guilty verdict in your criminal case is not necessarily the end of the case. Many cases are decided incorrectly because of problems with the judge’s legal rulings or because of issues with the jury or jury instructions. Even after the case is finished, you may have options to continue fighting your case and have the verdict overturned.
If you need help appealing your criminal conviction, call the New Jersey criminal appeals lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys can appeal your case to a higher court and file collateral appeals like PCR petitions and habeas corpus petitions to get your case overturned. Act fast – you have a limited time to file many of these appeals. Call our law offices today to schedule a free legal consultation on your case. Our number is (609) 616-4956.
Filing Appeals for Guilty Verdicts in New Jersey
When your case is heard, it is usually heard either in a “Municipal Court” or a “Superior Court.” Municipal courts are responsible for low-level charges, typically disorderly persons offenses for things like disorderly conduct or simple assault. More severe cases are heard in the Superior Courts.
Trials from the Superior Court are appealed directly to the Appellate Division. If your appeal is denied there, it can be appealed again to the New Jersey Supreme Court, and potentially to the United States Supreme Court if the verdict is still unsatisfactory.
Superior Courts are courts of general jurisdiction that hear criminal cases for indictable crimes that violate NJ state law. If your case was a lower-level offense tried at a Municipal Court, your first step in the appeal process is actually to appeal your case to the Superior Court. They will handle the appeals on low-level offenses instead of the NJ Appellate Division.
To appeal a case in the first place, you must have grounds to appeal the case. These grounds usually come from errors of law the judge made at trial. The judge is responsible for essentially refereeing your trial, and their decisions about what evidence is permitted or what language will be used in jury instructions can have a huge impact on the outcome of the case. If a judge makes an error in how they rule on an issue, you can appeal that issue and potentially get a new trial if the issue was serious enough.
Common legal errors that lead to direct appeals include the following:
- Bad rulings on evidence suppression and admissibility
- Bad rulings on expert testimony or scientific evidence
- Bad rulings on objections
- Unfair or biased juries
- The jury’s decision was unreasonable based on the facts presented
- The judge refused to declare a mistrial after prosecutorial misconduct
- Jury instructions mischaracterized the legal definition of the crime
There are dozens of other legal errors that could make a trial unfair and justify overturning the case and giving you a new trial. However, it is important to remember that appeals deal with legal errors, not factual errors, and you do not get a second chance to fight the facts presented in your trial unless you are granted a new trial (“trial de novo”) through a successful appeal.
Filing Collateral Appeals and Post-Conviction Relief Petitions in NJ
If your time limit to file a direct appeal with a higher court has passed, you may still be able to appeal serious errors in your case. Filing these kinds of “collateral appeals” still has a deadline, but the deadline may apply to events that happen long after the case is decided. Our attorneys explain how these appeals work.
Collateral appeals are typically based on severe rights violations that occurred in your case or new evidence that comes to light after the fact. If you discover after your guilty verdict that there was serious prosecutorial misconduct, police misconduct, or other rights violations, you may be able to file an appeal after that discovery. Additionally, newly discovered evidence or new scientific techniques that might call into question the evidence presented at your trial can also be grounds for filing a collateral appeal.
Some examples of grounds for a collateral appeal include the following:
- Discovery that the prosecution hid “exculpatory evidence” that could help prove your innocence (known as a Brady violation)
- New scientific standards or discoveries that call into question scientific evidence used in your trial (e.g., changes in fire science, ballistics, or DNA science)
- New “after-discovered” evidence that calls your guilt into question (e.g., someone else confessed to the crime)
There are thousands of potential situations where you may discover new evidence, find evidence of witness tampering or payments, or where scientific practices change and call your conviction into question. Many of these claims are filed as a “Petition for Post-Conviction Relief” (PCR).
You may also file a habeas corpus petition to fight an illegal detention if you are being held in prison after a conviction with no other clear way to challenge the case. This is common in cases where new evidence calls the guilt into question, such as when another person confesses to the crime or is arrested for the crime you are in prison for.
For Help with Your NJ Criminal Appeal, Call Our Law Offices Today
To get help appealing your NJ criminal case, contact the New Jersey criminal appeals attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys can help file direct appeals and PCR or habeas corpus petitions to fight unfair convictions. To schedule a free legal consultation, call our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.