Whether you have been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor, in federal or state court, by a plea or by trial, it is important to understand that you have rights to an appeal. And while the top criminal lawyers at Nessel & Kessel Law are always prepared to try cases to verdict, we are also ready to continue to fight for our client’s innocence at the appellate level. As experienced criminal defense attorneys, Nessel and Kessel Law is well versed in strategies and the rules of practice in appeals before the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Federal Circuit Courts.
At Nessel and Kessel Law, we pride ourselves on our thoroughness of investigation and attention to detail. The appeal of any case begins by examining all aspects of the original case to determine if a criminal appeal is possible. We then investigate all possible reasons for the verdict to be overturned, including legal malpractice, prosecutorial misconduct, improperly denied motions, or any exculpatory evidence that may have been overlooked.
It is important that before you undertake an appeal of your conviction, you understand what an appeal is NOT. An appeal in a criminal case is not a chance for the court of appeals to reexamine the evidence in your case so that it can second guess the judge or jury. An appeal in a criminal case is based around an error in law, i.e. a piece of evidence that should have been admitted was prohibited, or a statement from a witness that was admitted should have been disallowed, or the jury was instructed improperly, or a sentence that was imposed was improperly above the sentencing guidelines. These are errors of law and can be considered by the court of appeals.
When considering an appeal of your case, you should know that there are two different kinds of appellate rights: the automatic right to appeal, and the right to request leave to appeal. While these two rights sound similar, they are very different.
Automatic Right to Appeal
If you have had a criminal trial, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, you have have an automatic right to appeal your conviction. This means that the court of appeals MUST consider the arguments in your case. Evidence that was improperly admitted or prohibited are good sources for an appeal. These things will be found by a close examination of the transcript in your case, as well as by having conversations with you, your former attorney, your family, and possibly the judge.
Leave to Appeal
If you have pled guilty to a crime, you have what’s known as the right to ask for leave to appeal. This means that you can ask the court of appeals to consider your case because of some kind of legal error. However, the court does not have to give actual consideration to your claim of appeal, as it does with a conviction by judge or jury. The court may simply decline to hear the case without reaching the merits of your argument.
6.500 motions, otherwise known as “motions for relief from judgment” are a unique kind of appellate motion. 6.500 motions allow a defendant to challenge their conviction for ANY reason that has not previously been appealed. 6.500 motions are generally based on claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, newly discovered evidence, and other arguments that do not make their way into general ‘run of the mill’ appellate briefs. What makes 6.500 motions so special is that a defendant can ask for relief for “good cause”, which allows for an unlimited number of arguments to be made – so long as they can be considered good cause.
6.500 motions are not only unique, but they are also very delicate matters. A 6.500 motion may only be filed ONCE. That means that if a defendant, while bored in prison and looking for ways to pass the time, decides his lawyer was ineffective and files a poorly written and researched 6.500 motion and it is denied, that is it. There are no second chances when it comes to 6.500 motions. That is why it is extremely important to have an attorney who is familiar and experienced in appellate law to draft a well written and researched brief, but also an attorney who knows what arguments will and will not work before a judge.
The Nessel and Kessel Approach
The defense legal team at Nessel and Kessel Law offers full post-conviction services including motions for relief from judgment under MCR 6.500, appeals from these rulings, and habeas corpus litigation. Our top criminal attorneys also handle state and federal criminal appeals where defendants were wrongfully accused or wrongfully convicted of serious crimes, including murder and sex crimes. At Nessel and Kessel, we have the experience you needed to effectively communicate the grounds for your appeal, whether it be through the written appellate brief or the oral argument before the appellate court.