Police, prosecutors, judges, and juries make mistakes that result in incorrect convictions and unjust sentences. Sometimes, biases and prejudices cloud judgment. Either way, the right to appeal court decisions guarantees criminal defendants have opportunities to overturn wrongful convictions, challenge improper incarcerations, clear their records, and get their licenses reinstated.

You can appeal your conviction to a higher court in a number of ways. One involves going directly to the court of appeals; another is seeking post-conviction relief from of the trial court that sentenced you. Here's what else you need to know about appeals and how Campbell Law may be able to help you right some wrongs.

When can I appeal a criminal conviction?

Generally, the following circumstances let people appeal criminal convictions, parole, probation conditions, and what the State of Ohio calls "community control" (e.g., house arrest with electronic monitoring):

  • Overly harsh sentencing- Examples include a maximum sentence for one or two related offenses and consecutive terms in prison rather than concurrent terms.
  • Sentencing contrary to law-An example would be jail for an offense that only carries a fine under statute.
  • Violation of constitutional rights-Criminal defendants have the rights to hire an attorney, to be tried by a jury, and to examine and challenge the evidence against them.
  • Discrimination by a police officer, prosecutor, judge, or jury-No one ever surrenders their rights to protection from discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, or nationality.
  • DNA evidence that shows actual innocence-This is tricky because any appeal based on biological evidence depends on investigators obtaining and storing samples correctly.
  • Need to have a professional and/or driver's license to earn a living and provide for one's family.

Can I appeal because my original defense lawyer did a terrible job?

Absolutely. You can and should appeal when your counsel is ineffective and incompetent.

The burden rests on you to show why your trial lawyer failed you. Common types of ineffectiveness include missing deadlines for filing paperwork, making decisions without asking you, misusing legal terms, and not keeping promises. An example of the last situation would be an attorney telling you that she will secure you a lesser sentence if you plead guilty but then cannot get the judge, jury, or prosecutor to agree.

Can I get a new lawyer to handle my appeal?

Laws actually encourage you to do so, especially when you base your appeals on having ineffective or incompetent representation at trial. In Ohio, defendants must receive permission from a court to use the same attorney for an appeal.

How long do I have to appeal a criminal conviction?

Not long. Notice of intent to appeal usually needs to be filed within 14-30 days of being sentenced.

What can an appeal accomplish?

A successful appeal can result in release from jail or prison, a reduced sentence, another trial to determine innocence and/or the need to make restitution, lifting of court orders, reinstatement of licenses and privileges, and payment of court costs.

What if I want to appeal being held in custody?

You can absolutely do so. Under the right of habeas corpus-Latin for "that you have the body"-any person in jail, prison, or a health care facility by court order can demand that the government prove it has a valid reason to keep them there.

Insisting on your habeas corpus rights involves filing a federal civil lawsuit, which can result in release or transfer even while you pursue an appeal of a conviction. Working with an experienced Columbus, Ohio, parole and probation attorney can be essential while making a habeas challenge because succeeding demands producing evidence that the government acted illegally or inappropriately.

Does sealing a criminal record differ from expunging a record?

Yes. A sealed criminal record cannot be searched by members of the public, but courts and law enforcement officials can request permission to review the contents. An expunged record has been physically destroyed so no one can access it.

Who qualifies to have a record sealed or expunged?

Broadly, the following individuals can ask to have their criminal records sealed or expunged:

  • Adults and juveniles charged with crimes but not indicted or convicted
  • Adults and juveniles who complete their sentences and pay all fines and restitution
  • Juvenile offenders who reach 18 years of age
  • Individuals whose criminal convictions resulted from them being trafficked, which applies particularly to people convicted of prostitution

How do I ask to have my criminal record sealed or expunged?

You need to file an official petition and pay a fee while showing that you are not currently under indictment, are rehabilitated, and will not pose a risk to the public if others cannot review your criminal history. Creating the petition with assistance from a Columbus court of appeals attorney can help ensure you present all the evidence needed to succeed.

Decisions on requests to have records sealed or expunged are made in court, and petitioners are expected to be present.

What if all other appeals and request fail?

Requesting clemency can represent a last option. Available at both the federal and state levels, clemency comes in three forms:

  • Pardon, which represents a full exoneration
  • Commutation, or a decrease in sentencing
  • Reprieve, which entails the temporary suspension of certain sentence terms, such as a three-day release to attend a parent's funeral and handle family affairs

Who would I ask to grant clemency?

Except in extraordinary circumstances, federal clemency requests get handled by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Ohio Parole Board considers clemency petitions at the state level. Requests must be made in writing, and the case for exoneration, mercy, or relief must be made clearly with convincing evidence.

Having an Experienced Lawyer Makes a Difference

Campbell Law works hard every day to ensure adults and juveniles get their appeals heard. The criminal defense attorneys with the firm want to prevent the government form misusing its powers to investigate, jail, and fine people. We also know that individuals who have paid their debts after committing crimes deserve opportunities to reenter society without facing obstacles like publically searchable conviction records.

Prior to opening Campbell Law, founder April Campbell worked as an appellate attorney. She and her staff know how the criminal court system works, and they can spot problems with investigations, prosecutions, and sentencings. Having an attorney who frequently argues before appeals court judges and the Supreme Court of Ohio pays.

We offer no-cost case consultations. Contact us now to discuss your appeal.