If you take your criminal charges to court and lose your case, you may be convicted for the offenses and sentenced. However, that is not the end of your case. You have the right to appeal legal errors in your case, potentially getting the conviction thrown out and getting a second chance at trial. If you were convicted for DUI charges in California, talk to the Ventura criminal appeals lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today about your options for challenging your conviction and getting your case overturned.
How Do DUI Appeals Work in California?
By the time you get a chance to appeal your DUI case, your trial is already over, and you lost. If you didn’t lose at trial, your case does not need to be appealed. The government is not usually allowed to appeal the case if they lose, so if you win, your case is done. When you appeal your case, you have already gone before a judge or jury, and they decided you committed the crime based on the evidence they heard at trial. An appeal takes your case to a higher court level where the judge reviews the trial judge’s legal decisions and decides whether or not your case was fair.
When you appeal your case, the appellate judge does not re-hear the facts of your case or make any new decisions based on the facts. The judge or jury at your trial is responsible for deciding what facts are true, not the appeals judge. Instead, the appellate judge will analyze the trial judge’s legal decisions.
If the appeals court decides that the trial judge made an error, you may be entitled to a new trial. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial, but sometimes trial judges make errors of law. Some trial errors are simple mistakes that should entitle you to a new trial. Alternatively, decisions could be based on laws that are unconstitutional, misinterpreted, or unjust. Unfortunately, the trial judge has to follow these rules, even if they are wrong. It takes a higher level of court to overturn unconstitutional or unjust laws, which means filing an appeal to a higher court.
If you lose your appeal, but you still have a good argument as to why the trial judge made an error, you may be able to appeal your case further. In California, the case goes to trial in the Superior Court then moves to the court of appeals before reaching the California Supreme Court. Many misdemeanor cases will actually be appealed to the appellate division of the Superior Courts rather than reaching the court of appeals like felony DUIs. If the California Supreme Court still decides the case incorrectly, you may be able to appeal to the US Supreme Court for help. You have the right to your first appeal in any case, but higher courts can refuse to hear an appeal if they believe the case was rightly decided below.
If you win your appeal, your conviction is overturned. This resets your case back to the beginning of trial where the prosecution may offer you a better plea deal or even refuse to retry the case. Alternatively, they may retry the case – but that gives you a second chance to defend yourself.
Grounds for Appealing a DUI Case
When you appeal your DUI case, you need to point to some legal error the trial judge made. Most appeal cases are based on the evidence the judge allowed at your trial. If you were subject to a traffic stop, arrested, or searched for evidence, and any of those steps were illegal, the court should “suppress” any evidence the police gained from the illegal search or seizure. This means that you have the right to get the evidence thrown out. If the judge denies your attorney’s motion to suppress, you could end up facing illegal evidence at trial. If this evidence involves a blood sample, a confession, drugs seized in a drug DUI case, or other evidence that hurts your case, that could be grounds to have your conviction reversed.
Many of the rules for traffic stops, searches, and DUI arrests are very clear, but still lead to overturned convictions and retrials. If the police that stopped you did not have evidence of dangerous driving, swerving, or other traffic violations, the traffic stop may be illegal. If the police did not have enough evidence that you were intoxicated before arresting you, the arrest could be illegal. If police failed to obtain a search warrant or your consent before drawing blood, you may be able to have the blood test suppressed. Lastly, many confessions can even be thrown out if they were obtained without notifying you of your Miranda rights while you were in custody.
Other more complex grounds for appeals exist. These deal with problems with scientific evidence, procedural errors, and not having enough evidence to convict. Talk to an attorney about the specific grounds for appeal available in your DUI case.
Ventura DUI Appeals Attorneys Offering Free Consultations
DUI cases can have strict penalties, so it is important to put up every legal defense you can. If you were convicted for DUI, but your trial suffered from legal errors, bad lawyering, or unjust decisions, talk to our Ventura criminal defense attorneys about appealing your case. For a free consultation, contact The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today at (805) 643-5555.