MICHIGAN CRIMINAL APPEAL LAWYER – CRIMINAL APPEALS EXPLAINED

An experienced Michigan criminal appeal lawyer fights for fairness.  Everyone in the United States accused of a crime has the fundamental right to a fair trial. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In many criminal cases lawyers and judges make mistakes that deprive a person of a fair trial. Fortunately, anyone convicted of a crime has the opportunity to appeal his or her conviction to correct an unfair result.  A Michigan criminal appeal lawyer seeks to achieve to correct an unjust result. Often a conviction can be overturned, a new trial can be granted, a sentence can be reduced, among other remedies.

This article is about the criminal appeal process from an experienced Michigan criminal appeal lawyer.  The process is complicated and does require a great deal of explanation.  Unlike a trial, the appeal process is focused on correcting any legal errors that have occurred during a plea or trial.  This article is an introduction into the Michigan appeal process.  the primary focus is on an appeal by right, that is, an appeal after a jury returned a guilty verdict.

  1. FIGHTING FOR THE WRONGLY CONVICTED

While the United States has one of the best legal systems in the world, the system does not always work correctly.  Yes, innocent people are convicted of crimes they did not commit.  That conviction is an injustice.  In fact, any irregularity in the trial that affected the outcome of the case is an injustice.  A criminal is chance to identify the legal errors and issues and present them to the appellate courts for relief.  The goal is to get the conviction overturned and/or get a new trial.

The appellate courts in Michigan consist of the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court.  If the case has federal issues and those issues have been properly preserved, a defendant has an opportunity to appeal to the federal courts including the United States Supreme Court.  A Michigan criminal appeal lawyer fights to fix an unjust conviction.

  1. A JURY TRIAL CONVICTION MUST BE FAIR UNDER THE CONSTITUTION AND COURT RULES

The appellate process usually begins in the Michigan Court of Appeals.  The criminal appellate court system is designed to give the convicted the ability to request a higher court’s review of the lower court’s decisions on legal issues, to determine if the defendant received a fair trial, to review a guilty plea for correctness, order that an unjust sentence be corrected and remanded to the trial court, entertain motions for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, among many other proceedings.

Motions for a new trial are very often filed by Defendants acting as their own attorney.  The problem is that not many of them are properly done.  Since a mistake can slam the door closed on the appellate process,  it is critical that the defendant hire a veteran and experienced Michigan criminal appeal lawyer to look at the issues, properly write the legal briefs and argue them in the court.  Freedom is at stake and an experienced Michigan criminal appeal lawyer is your best chance at freedom from an unjust conviction or trial.

The Michigan Supreme Court reviews the decisions of the Michigan Court of Appeals and checks their decisions for errors.

  1.  Introduction to the criminal appeal process.

The first step of any Michigan criminal appeal lawyer is to review the transcripts.  I take the necessary time to diligently review the details of the case and identify all of the legal arguments that may be presented on your behalf.  This step is called “issue-spotting.”  Only an experienced Michigan criminal appeal lawyer has the necessary knowledge to spot issues that could result in relief.

Each case is factually unique.  However, all criminal appeals share the same basic characteristics.

  1. a) The appeals process is very slow.  This may come as some surprise but an average criminal appeal will take a year or more before the Michigan Court of Appeals issues a written opinion.

(1)       As stated earlier, a Michigan criminal appeal lawyer must obtain a copy of the transcripts.  Upon request, the court reporter will prepare a typed transcript of everything that happened and was said in the trial court.  It takes a few months to get the transcripts.

(2)       After I have taken the time to review the court file, police reports, transcripts, motions, etc., I will identify all of the issues that could be appealed.  I write the issues down and send a written letter to the defendant to update him or her as to the status of my review.  I then ask the defendant to write a letter to me identifying any issues that he or she believes occurred during the trial.  This is important because I welcome the Defendant’s input. We work together in the appeal process.

(3)       I also try to determine if there is new evidence that was not presented at trial.  After investigating any new evidence, I start the legal research process.  I will research the case law that applies to the facts of the case.  After that process is complete I determine which issues have a very strong argument.  Only the strongest issues should be presented.  Any weak issues will be dismissed.  I will then communicate my findings in writing to the defendant with detailed explanations.  Next, I will write a draft of the appellate brief.  I will then edit the brief for errors.  After everything is correct I will prepare the final written product for submission to the court.

(4)       After I have filed the brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals, I will send a copy to the defendant and prosecutor.  The prosecutor will then write a response brief addressing the arguments presented in our brief.  They will undoubtedly argue that the convictions should stand.  However, there have been times where the prosecution has agreed with my arguments. We then agreed on the appropriate remedy for the defendant.

(5)       When I submit the briefs to the Michigan Court of Appeals, I will make a request for oral argument.  The Court of Appeals will then schedule the case approximately a year later.  The defendant does not appear in the Michigan Court of Appeals.  Only the lawyers appear to answer the questions from the 3 judge panel.

(6)       After I have argued the case before the judges, the court will write a written opinion.  The court will send a copy to counsel a few weeks to months later.

4.  What the appellate courts review in your case.

Appellate courts are concerned with legal issues that affect the reliability of the outcome in the trial.  The court reviews the errors made by the court, prosecutor or defense attorney.Guilt or innocence will not be decided on appeal.  The Court of Appeals has ruled that factual decisions related to guilt or innocence are solely for the jury to decide.  A jury’s decision will not be changed unless the trial was unfair or if the evidence did not support the crime. If the trial and sentence followed correct procedures and laws, the Court of Appeals will tend to believe that the judge and jury reached the verdict correctly.

I have to make one point very clear.  Defendants often tell me that witnesses lied or were wrong when they testified during the trial.  I agree that witnesses either lie or incorrectly misstate facts because of faulty recollection.  Even though this occurs, the appellate courts are more concerned with legal errors and not witness credibility.  Specifically, the appellate court is more concerned with whether your attorney was effective under the 6th Amendment.  As stated earlier, the Court of Appeals believes that witness credibility issues are solely for the jury to decide.  In fact, the jury instructions state that “a jury may believe, some, none, or all of what a witness says.”  The Court of Appeals will not review witnesses credibility on appeal.

However, in one of my very first cases as a Michigan criminal appeal lawyer, I had an appeal where I proved that the judge, prosecutor and 3 police officers covered up witness perjury.  My client received a new trial and the police, prosecutor and judge were arrested and prosecuted.  The transcripts revealed that the court, prosecutor and police knew that a witness lied when he testified and did not prevent that lie from reaching the jury.  I took on a big fight as a new Michigan criminal appeal lawyer when I went after the court, police and prosecutor.  But, it was very important to me that justice be done.  So, it was worth it as a new lawyer to fight for what was right.  I still continue that fight today.

The errors that can occur during a trial are different from case to case.  The following are examples of issues that may be raised on appeal:

  • evidence was not properly admitted
  • an attorney was ineffective under the Sixth Amendment -numerous subissues
  • the court did not instruct the jury properly,
  • prosecutorial misconduct -numerous subissues
  • Batson issues
  • ​illegal search and seizure
  • constitutional rights
  • confidential informant
  • discovery issues
  • double jeopardy
  • hearsay
  • expert issues
  • eyewitness identification
  • coerced confessions – Fifth Amendment
  • insufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction
  • insanity/incompetency
  • improper sentence
  • involuntary pleas
  • mistrials
  • judicial bias

5. All of the issues presented to the court of appeals must be supported by the record as reflected in the transcripts. The court prefers issues that it can review in the record.  However, there are times when a legal issue occurs that is not reflected in the record.  If that happens, we will have to file a motion in the court of appeals asking the court to remand the case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing.  We may have to take additional testimony.

6.  Appellate courts generally do not release inmates from prison or give “time cuts” simply because we ask the courts to do so.  If a sentencing error occurred and your sentence is incorrect, we will ask that you be resentenced correctly.  Yes, sometimes this does result in a reduced sentence.

7.  As a Michigan criminal appeal lawyer, I have successfully had convictions reversed, new trials granted and sentences reduced.  It must be noted that the Michigan Court of Appeals rarely grants relief. The statistics indicate that only a small percentage of cases get relief.  I feel fortunate that I have had success in the appellate courts.  This is why it is critical that your case is properly prepared by an experienced Michigan criminal appeal lawyer.  He or she will make sure only the strongest arguments are presented to the appellate courts.  You definitely want the strongest case presented on your behalf.  This may be your only chance for a new trial or getting your conviction reversed.

8.  FEDERAL ISSUE PRESERVATION. One of the most important things that an appellate attorney can do is preserve any legal issues for the Michigan federal courts.  The federal courts follow a very strict rule: only objections, evidence, and legal arguments that invoke federal law will be reviewed.  For example, if your trial attorney was ineffective under the 6th Amendment, the arguments presented to the Court of Appeals must address federal law and make reference to federal constitutional provisions.  By referencing federal law, the path to the federal courts is open for review by the federal court.  This is critical.  If the issues are not “federally preserved” by a thorough Michigan criminal appeal lawyer, you will not be able to appeal to the federal courts.  This means that if you lose in the Michigan Supreme Court, you cannot go to federal court.  Your appeal process is now done.  It is very important that a Michigan criminal appeal lawyer preserve all of your federal arguments.  You want as many chances to move your appeal through the different courts.

HOW I WORK WITH MY CLIENTS

We will discuss the facts of your case in great detail.  I will inform you of the issues for appeal.  I always ask my clients to communicate to me in writing so that there is a record of what we discussed.  Items in writing always protect our individual interests.  I encourage all of my clients to write letters to me describing any and all issues that they believe have occurred. I always want my clients to give me their point of view.  After all, your liberty is at stake and that is important to me as your lawyer.

As your Michigan criminal appeal lawyer, it is my ethical duty and responsibility to be as forthright and honest as I can.  I must tell you the truth about the strength and weakness of your appeal.  That is what you deserve. I explain everything to you in explicit detail.  Also, it is your duty to be honest with me. I urge my clients to ask me any questions that they may have about the case.  Please note that the ultimate decisions are up to you, however, we work as a team.

I am not sure how many attorneys will inform their clients of this fact, but I want all of my clients to know that the Michigan Supreme Court has issued Minimum Standards for Indigent Criminal Appellate Defense Services.  This can be found in Administrative Order 2004-6.  Even though I would be your retained Michigan criminal appeal lawyer,  I want you to bring to my attention, in writing, any standard that you feel I have not kept.  This is how confident I am in the thoroughness of my work and attention to detail.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

A.  It is very important for me to review the police report in your case.  I will have requested them from trial counsel.  However, clients often keep copies of their police reports.  If you have it, I would request that you send it to me.  I can make copies and return it to you.

B.  I will need to see your Presentence Investigation Report.  I want to see if the information is accurate.

C.  Refrain from filing any grievance against your trial attorney.  It is difficult to speak with a trial attorney when he or she is on the defensive concerning possible errors that he or she may have committed.  Understand that you can always file a grievance, but I suggest that you wait until after the appeal brief has been filed.

D.  Attorney-Client Privilege.  The law and ethical rules protects communications between attorney and client. The privilege is sacred.  Nothing we discuss can be brought up in court and used against you. There are warnings.  If you decide to talk about your case with inmates – you do not have confidential status.  If you tell someone what you told me, the confidentiality rule will not apply to your conversation with others.  You will have waived the privilege.

I caution you, do not talk about your case with anyone other than your Michigan criminal appeal lawyer.  You risk having anyone you talk with be subpoenaed and testify against you in a new trial.  We do not want that to happen.

This article provides an overview of the criminal appeal process and how I work with my clients.  An appeal is often the last chance to challenge your conviction and sentence.  During your entire appeal, you want an experienced Michigan criminal appeal lawyer lawyer representing you and your chance for freedom.  You want someone dedicated to your legal rights. We have dedicated our entire careers to criminal defense.  We are dedicated to providing you with the best appeal.

Since we are criminal defense lawyers, we have done trial and appeal work.  We have practical experience in the trial courts.  We use that knowledge, in combination with our criminal appeal experience, to give you the best chance at getting a new trial or your sentence reduced.

Call (586) 718-2345, 24/7 – 365 days a week to speak with us. We will take the time to explain the appellate process to you or anyone seeking advice on a criminal appeal.  We have appealed all types of criminal cases including murder, criminal sexual conduct, armed robbery, attempted murder, plea based convictions, among many others.  We have been successful in getting convictions overturned in the most serious of cases.

Czarnecki & Taylor website

Link to Michigan Court of Appeals