Many criminal defendants never think their case will end up on appeal. And few of them do. Nevertheless, hiring a trial attorney with appellate experience is a big help. The right lawyer will preserve issues for appeal and strengthen your chances of winning an appeal should it come to that. Below, our Houston criminal defense attorneys highlight how their appellate experience makes a critical difference for their clients.
You Must Preserve Issues for Appeal
On appeal, you ask a higher court to review the trial record, in particular decisions the trial judge made. For example, the judge might have allowed a witness to testify to statements she heard someone make outside of court. Or the judge might have allowed the prosecutor to admit evidence that you are best friends with a criminal.
If the judge mistakenly let evidence into court, then the appellate court might reverse your conviction. You can usually get a new trial.
However, it’s critical to preserve issues for appeal. In many cases, this means objecting to evidence or testimony during the trial. Your attorney should stand and say, “Objection, Your Honor” and then state the reason. No objection, no preservation. And when trial counsel doesn’t preserve an issue, the odds go way down that the appellate court will say the judge made a mistake.
In other situations, we need to make a “bill of exception” when a judge won’t allow evidence in. This means we ask the judge to take the jury out of the room and tell the court reporter what we would have introduced.
Based on our appellate experience, we know which issues to preserve and how to do it. That’s the type of strategic thinking our clients benefit from.
Some Issues Require Pretrial Motions
Although standing up and objecting might preserve some issues, others require a pretrial motion. For example, in federal court, a defendant must bring a motion to suppress evidence before trial.
Under Rule 12(b)(3)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the issue is waived if you don’t make a pretrial motion, and the appellate court will not consider the issue. Trial attorneys who don’t do appeals often forget to preserve issues properly—and their clients suffer.
Clients Benefit from Solid Writing Experience
Appellate lawyers file written briefs with higher courts. These courts don’t hear witnesses. Instead, they review trial transcripts and read the arguments each side makes. An appellate lawyer should have deep experience writing legal arguments.
All of our clients, even those in the trial court, benefit from our writing experience. Our pre-trial and post-trial motions are that much stronger because we are used to making written arguments.
Contact Our Houston Criminal Defense Lawyers
At Tad Nelson, we always aim for a dismissal of charges, a favorable plea, or even acquittal at trial. But if a jury ends up convicting you, then an appeal might be your last chance of preserving your liberty. We lay the groundwork the right way so any appeal will be as strong as possible. Contact us today to speak with a Houston criminal defense lawyer.