Practice Areas

Appeals

When a party loses in court at the trial level they generally have the opportunity to appeal any adverse decisions. Whether an accused criminal sentenced to prison or a civil party who did not prevail, the party normally must file a notice of appeal with the trial court and then can have their case reviewed by at least one appellate court at the state or federal level.

Habeas Corpus & Post-Conviction Relief Motions

Habeas Corpus or PCR Motions (known by various names in the states and as §2255 or §2254 motions in the federal system) have evolved to become the appeal after the appeal for individuals convicted of crimes.

Sentencing Issues

Although most defendants who enter into the criminal justice system start out being concerned primarily about defeating a state’s claims against them, for those who have been convicted by a judge or jury or chosen to enter a plea of guilty, there is a different, but just as important, concern: the sentence. A convicted defendant’s sentence determines how many years of his or her life will be spent with a least part of their liberty restrained by the state or federal government.

Specific Offense Issues

All fifty states and the federal government have designated certain crimes for special regulation, even after the defendant has served his time in prison, on probation or on parole. Many of these regulations pertain to crimes deemed sex offenses by the various governments.

Appeals

When a party loses in court at the trial level they generally have the opportunity to appeal any adverse decisions. Whether an accused criminal sentenced to prison or a civil party who did not prevail, the party normally must file a notice of appeal with the trial court and then can have their case reviewed by at least one appellate court at the state or federal level. Appeals deal primarily with questions of law (e.g. admission or exclusion of certain evidence, procedural questions or definitions of the law as presented to the jury) and less with questions of fact, which are typically determined by a factfinder (either a judge if it is a bench trial or a jury if it is a jury trial). An appellate attorney’s primary job is to review the record of the case in the lower court, including evidence which was admitted or excluded, testimony, motions and arguments as reflected in the trial transcript(s) in order to determine what – if any – issues exist which have the potential of changing the outcome of case for the appellant. After identifying these issues, the attorney is responsible for conducting legal research, amending the record (if possible and necessary) and arguing to the court(s) that an error was made at the trial level which requires a change the result of the case (either reversing, vacating or remanding the case). Appeals generally have strict, inflexible guidelines for parties wishing to appeal, so it is very important not to delay in finding an attorney who will handle an appeal. Appellate Courts tend to favor the party which prevailed at the trial level at better than seventy percent, so it is urgently important that anyone choosing to exercise the right to appeal seek out the best appellate attorney they can afford.

Habeas Corpus & Post-Conviction Relief Motions

Habeas Corpus or PCR Motions (known by various names in the states and as §2255 or §2254 motions in the federal system) have evolved to become the appeal after the appeal for individuals convicted of crimes. Typically taken up after a defendant’s direct appeal rights have been exhausted, habeas petitions normally trigger civil proceedings, the subject matter of which are criminal trials and, therefore, it is an extremely specialized practice requiring familiarity with both areas. Habeas petitions typically allege that the defendant’s previous attorney(s) were ineffective in some way which has caused prejudice to the defendant’s case. In other words, a successful Habeas petition will show that the trial or appellate attorney made an error which was severe enough that, had it not been made, there is a reasonable probability of a more favorable outcome to the defendant. Habeas petitions can also allege that a change in the law beneficial to the defendant has occurred since his appeals were denied or that evidence not available at the time or trial or appeal has been discovered and should now be considered. State and federal laws place rigid procedural requirements on habeas petitions, including limitations on how long, after the case has become final, a petitioner has to file the petition. Knowledge of the intricate procedures involved in habeas practice distinguish the handful of attorneys who regularly handle habeas petitions from those who do not – including inmates who attempt to represent themselves in court. Hiring an attorney well-versed the procedures involved in habeas cases can spell the difference between a petitioner winning his or her freedom and the exact same case being dismissed and not even considered on its merit by a court, due to procedural flaws. Before taking on a habeas case, an attorney will typically (for a fee) need to review the entire record of the case to determine whether or not there are meritorious issues to be pursued. This is true even if a petitioner has prepared his own petition and filed it in court, as the attorney will need to agree that the petitioner’s issues have merit before he can argue those issues in court.

Sentencing Issues

Although most defendants who enter into the criminal justice system start out being concerned primarily about defeating a state’s claims against them, for those who have been convicted by a judge or jury or chosen to enter a plea of guilty, there is a different, but just as important, concern: the sentence. A convicted defendant’s sentence determines how many years of his or her life will be spent with a least part of their liberty restrained by the state or federal government. A favorable sentence can allow a defendant to serve his or her debt to society and then to re-enter it as a productive and law-abiding citizen. A more severe sentence can have a defendant spend most of his or her living years – if not their entire life – behind bars. The fact that a defendant has been convicted does not automatically define the sentence he or she will receive. Both state and federal courts take into account a number of factors, such as criminal history, characteristics of the crime and personal characteristics/history of the defendant, to arrive at an appropriate sentence. An experienced attorney can help shape a court’s view of those sentencing factors in a light most favorable to minimizing the deprivation of freedom suffered by his client. That attorney can also identify and exploit procedural issues to assure minimum sentencing. In certain circumstances, attorneys can also seek modification or reduction of a sentence based on changed circumstances or factors which should have been, but were not, considered at the original sentencing.

Specific Offense Issues

All fifty states and the federal government have designated certain crimes for special regulation, even after the defendant has served his time in prison, on probation or on parole. Many of these regulations pertain to crimes deemed sex offenses by the various governments. Sex offenders are typically required to register with local authorities and provide other personal information to allow various law enforcement agencies to scrutinize their day-to-day lives. The list of offenses deemed “sex offenses,” and thus of offenders deemed, “sex offenders,” has expanded, not contracted, over the fifteen to twenty years these laws have been in place. So have the requirements placed upon sex offenders, including restrictions on where they can live, where they can work, how they may use their personal computers and with whom they may interact, sometimes including family members and even their own children. In the laudable pursuit of keeping children out of harm’s way, many jurisdictions have created immense obstacles to day-to-day living for individuals who have committed crimes in the past, but are now fully law-abiding citizens who are no threat to anyone. Some states have afforded offenders the opportunity to be removed from registries, others have processes wherein an offender may seek to minimize the requirements imposed upon him or her. The assistance of an experienced attorney is necessary in these type of proceedings to see to it that the government is allowed to do no more than regulate those it deems sex offenders, rather than punish them all over again for a mistake in their past.

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