Florida Appeals and Post-Conviction Modifications


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Thomas By Thomas C. Grajek

Florida Defense Attorney for Criminal Appeals and Modifications

Have you been convicted of a crime in either Hillsborough, Polk or Pasco County?  Being convicted of a crime in Florida doesn’t have to be the final step in your criminal court case.   Seeking the counsel of an experienced appeals attorney can ensure that no stone is left unturned in attempting to regain your freedom.  There are many reasons to appeal a court’s decision, including possible trial errors, corruption within the jury, motion to vacate or reduce a sentence upon obtaining new information, etc.  If you feel that you have been unfairly convicted, or that your sentence is exceedingly harsh, call Thomas C. Grajek, Attorney at Law.  I vigorously fight to obtain justice for my clients that have been treated unfairly by the Florida criminal court system.  There are many options available to those that have been wrongly convicted.  Call today for a free consultation to discuss your case, and which of the post-conviction options may apply to you.

What Happens After a Conviction in Florida?

After being convicted in a Florida criminal case, a defendant has several possible options for receiving relief from the court’s judgment. The criminal appellate process is one potential avenue that convicted defendants can take. However, while the appeal process may be the most well-known form of post-conviction relief, not every defendant will necessarily benefit from filing an appeal. There are several alternative forms of post-conviction relief that can help these defendants, including filing a motion to modify or vacate the sentence. Whatever action you decide to take, remember that time is of the essence; the ability to exercise any of these post-conviction actions has a strict time limit.

The Appeal Process

Following conviction in a Florida state criminal court, a defendant has 30 days to file a notice of appeal with the court system. The appeal will be heard by the Florida District Court of Appeals that has jurisdiction over the original trial court. After the notice of appeal is filed, the court’s clerk will begin compiling the appeal record, including all transcripts, motions and pleadings from the original trial court case. Next comes a series of briefs submitted to the court by both the defense and the state, followed by oral arguments in front of the appellate court. After this, the appellate court will issue its ruling.

In order for an appeal to be successful, a defendant and his attorney must show that the trial court made an error either during the trial itself or in pre-trial or sentencing proceedings. An error occurs when the trial judge makes a ruling that is against either state or federal law.

While the appeal process is ongoing, certain defendants are eligible to be released on bond pending the outcome of their appeal. Barring certain cases that face statutory exclusion, an appealing defendant must a file a motion and demonstrate that their appeal is not frivolous.

If an appeal is successful, the appellate court can order a number of remedies, including a new trial, new sentencing proceedings or complete dismissal of the case. Following an unsuccessful appeal, a defendant may still be able to file a motion for other forms of post-conviction relief.

What Issues Can Be Raised During an Appeal?

In short, any ruling made by the trial judge that violates state or federal law can be raised as part of the direct criminal appeal process. Common issues raised on appeal include:

  • The issuance of a search warrant without probable cause;
  • The trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress illegal seized evidence;
  • The trial court’s denial of a request to excuse jurors that displayed prejudice during the screening process;
  • The insufficiency of the evidence presented by the State to allow for a guilty verdict;
  • Jury instructions that provided erroneous guidance to the jury on the relevant law; or
  • A final sentence that exceeds Florida’s statutory maximum or is erroneously based on one of Florida’s sentencing enhancements.

This list of possible trial court errors is not all-inclusive. In addition, review of whether or not the trial attorney objected to the error at the time and whether or not the error was actually harmful is necessary to determine if an appeal is appropriate. A detailed and thorough review of the trial record by a qualified appellate attorney can help make this determination.

What types of convictions are eligible for Appeal?

We handle appeals for all types of misdemeanor and felony convictions, including but not limited to:

Alternatives to Appeal Following a Conviction

Filing an appeal is not the right solution for every case, whether due to lack of error by the trial court or the length of time it takes for an appeal to be considered. Several alternatives exist that can still provide relief following a conviction. The alternatives are also possible following the denial of an appeal.

Motion to Reduce or Modify a Sentence

Under Rule 3.800(c) of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, a convicted defendant can file a motion with the trial court seeking a reduction or other modification of their sentence. This motion must be filed and heard by the court within 60 days of either the trial court or the appellate court’s decision.

Motion to Withdraw a Plea

Defendants who pled guilty generally have fewer post-conviction relief options. However, under Rule 3.170, a defendant who pled guilty can ask to withdraw their plea, either before or after sentencing. The standards for this motion are stricter once sentencing has occurred; in these cases, the convicted defendant must show actual legal cause such as an involuntary plea.

Motion to Vacate a Judgment

The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure’s Rule 3.850 allows convicted defendants to file a motion with the court to vacate their judgment and sentence within two years of the final judgment of either the trial court or the appellate court. In order for the court to grant such a motion, a defendant has to show sufficient cause. The most common reason that such motions are granted is due to the trial attorney’s ineffective counsel. Note that defendants are typically allowed to file only one Rule 3.850 motion.

Motion to Correct an Illegal Sentence

If the trial judge issued an illegal sentence, a convicted defendant can seek relief by filing a Rule 3.800(a) motion. Examples of illegal sentences include those based on an incorrect classification of the defendant as a habitual felony offender or those that fail to provide credit for jail time already served.

It is important to utilize every opportunity the law provides you in your Florida criminal case.  An aggressive appeals lawyer like myself can help you in understanding what your options are, and fighting to get you the best outcome possible.  I have offices in Tampa, Lutz and Lakeland Florida, and have over 15 years of experience in negotiating appeals and post-conviction modifications.  Call today for a free evaluation of your case, and let me help get you on the road to freedom.