Houston Appeals Lawyers

Houston, TX criminal appeal lawyer

Attorneys for Challenging Criminal Convictions in Houston

Being charged with a crime is a serious matter that can have far-reaching consequences on your personal and professional life. If you are convicted of a crime in Houston, Texas, it is important to remember that you may still have options available to challenge the judgment or seek relief. One of these options is filing an appeal.

An appeal is a legal process that allows individuals who were found guilty of a crime to request a higher court to review their case for errors or violations of their Constitutional rights. In Texas, there are specific rules and procedures governing the appeals process that both defendants and their attorneys must adhere to. At Bennett & Bennett, we have over 28 years of experience representing clients in appeals and other criminal proceedings. We can help you determine your best options for addressing wrongful convictions or other issues that led to unjust results in your case.

If you have been unjustly convicted, there are two types of postconviction relief potentially available: direct appeal, and habeas corpus.

Grounds for Direct Appeal

To win an appeal in Texas, generally you must identify some legal error that the judge made during trial. With some exceptions, for these errors to justify the reversal of your case, they must be:

  • Preserved: The judge must have been made aware that he or she was making a legal error at the time. For example, if relevant evidence was excluded, the record must show that the lawyer offered the evidence, and must show what the evidence would have been if it was admitted. If the State offered evidence that was illegally obtained, the lawyer must have objected in trial, and used words that alerted the judge to the specific legal problem with the admission of evidence.
  • Harmful: The error must have affected the outcome of the case.

There are some exceptions, but because most errors must be preserved to form grounds for an appeal, the trial lawyer is a crucial part of the appellate process. People sometimes think that their lawyers' bad work can be fixed on appeal, but good lawyers preserve error, so the better job your trial lawyer did, the better the chances that your appeal lawyer can get the case reversed.

Occasionally a direct appeal will be appropriate for claims that require post-trial investigation or evidence to prove, such as:

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel: If you believe your attorney provided inadequate representation during your trial, and this affected the outcome of your case, you may be able to have your conviction overturned and receive a new trial.
  • Juror misconduct: If jurors engaged in improper behavior during deliberations that may have influenced their decision-making process, such as discussing the case with outside parties, you may be able to have the case reviewed and declared a mistrial.
  • Misconduct by the prosecution: If prosecutors engaged in unethical conduct or violated your rights during the trial proceedings, such as by refusing to disclose evidence that could have exonerated you, it may be possible to reverse your conviction.

For such claims to be raised on direct appeal, they must be raised in a motion for new trial, so that the record shows the evidence supporting the claim. Usually, though, these claims must be addressed in a postconviction habeas corpus proceeding.

Likewise if there are other reasons why you believe you were wrongfully convicted, such as new evidence that surfaces after your trial has concluded, you may be able to pursue other forms of relief, including writs of habeas corpus.

The Appeals Process

The appeals process in Texas typically involves the following steps:

  1. Filing a notice of appeal: Once you decide to appeal your conviction, it is essential that you file a notice of appeal with the trial court within the specified time frame. In Texas, a notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days after a judgment was issued. The deadline may be extended to 90 days in situations where the defendant files a motion for a new trial within 30 days after the judgment.
  2. Record preparation: Your attorney will then request that a record of all trial proceedings be prepared for review by the appellate court. The record will include the Reporter's Record—transcripts of witness testimony, evidence presented, and any other relevant documentation from your trial—and the Clerk's Record—the documents filed with the court clerk.
  3. Appellate briefs: After reviewing the trial record, your attorney will submit a brief to the higher court outlining legal arguments and supporting case law that demonstrates why your conviction should be overturned or modified. This brief will give reasoning as to why the trial court's decisions were made in error. The State will file its own brief arguing that your case should not be reversed, and your attorney may file a brief in reply to that.
  4. Oral arguments: In some cases, hearings may be scheduled where both sides will have an opportunity to present their case before a panel of judges. These arguments are meant to further clarify and support each side's position.
  5. Court decision: A panel of judges will carefully review all filings and evidence presented before making their decision. They can choose to uphold the lower court's decision, reverse it entirely, or modify it as they see fit.
  6. Further motions: After an appeals case is concluded, it may be possible to have the case reviewed by a higher court by filing a subsequent appeal. Filing a motion for rehearing may also be an option if you are dissatisfied with the court's decision.

Contact Our Houston Appeals Attorney

If you believe that errors were made during your criminal trial, or if you may have other grounds for requesting an appeal, it is important to seek guidance from an experienced, passionate attorney who understands the procedures followed in criminal appeals. At Bennett & Bennett, we understand how crucial a successful appeal can be, and we will help you take the correct steps to seek relief following a wrongful conviction or unjust sentence. To discuss your case further, contact us at 713-224-1747 and schedule a confidential consultation.

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