Once a conviction has been entered against you in a N.J. criminal case, you have the right to file an appeal. An appeal says that ‘the Court made a mistake, that the Court erred when…’ it made a ruling that was against your defense. The appeal must be filed within the time allowed by Court Rule, or you will lose the right to file the appeal. If the mistake was by your lawyer, not the Court, then you need to file a petition for a PCR (Post-Conviction Relief).
There are many reasons to file an appeal, and sometimes the best argument to support an appeal comes to light after you have filed the appeal and had the time to fully review what happened in Court. The appeal is based on ‘the record below’, meaning that you are limited to the transcripts of what happened in Court, the briefs and other documents submitted by your attorney and the prosecution, the oral argument and record of what occurred in Court, and the written decisions of the Court that heard your case. It is very unusual for the Appellate Court to allow the record to be supplemented by something that was not presented to the trial court.
The appeal must actually be filed, not simply ‘in the mail’ within the proscribed filing period. For a case in the New Jersey Superior Courts, you have 45-days from the time that the conviction becomes ‘Final’ after sentencing, to file the appeal. If you request an extension (of 30-days) within the original 45-days, the additional time will almost certainly be granted. If you miss those deadlines, you will almost certainly lose the right to file the appeal. If you do not file the appeal within 20-days of a final conviction in the N.J. Municipal Courts, you similarly will almost certainly lose the right to file that appeal. The importance of losing the right to file the appeal, is that LEGAL issues to challenge the conviction must be raised as part of an appeal. Legal issues that are not raised in an appellate proceeding are typically viewed by the Courts as ‘waived’, meaning that you are not contesting them. If for example you did not file the appeal, you could not then file and argue those legal issues as part of a post-conviction relief petition, since that process does not address deficiencies of what the Court did.
The are numerous issues that may need to be raised in appeal, such as challenging the Court’s denial of a Motion to Suppress; the Judge allowing certain types of questions during testimony; the Court permitting a witness to testify about an identification made of you by a witness; the Court refusing to allow testimony by a defense witness; and, the Court allowing the prosecution to make improper summation comments. In addition to these few illustrations, your appellate counsel will need to completely review what happened in Court to determine what legal issues should be raised to challenge the conviction. The decision of the Appellate Court in a successful appeal, is typically limited to your case, and is not directly applicable to the cases/appeals of other defendants. If you are successful in the appeal, the case will be returned to the lower Court, where the ruling will be enforced and the Prosecution given the opportunity to decide whether to dismiss the case or go forward without the evidence that the Appellate Court has ruled is inadmissible.
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No attorney-client relationship is intended, offered or established by this information, even if it is similar in nature to a situation you are facing. Should you be confronted with a criminal prosecution or investigation, you are strongly advised to consult immediately with an experienced criminal defense lawyer licensed in the State or jurisdiction where the charges are filed, with whom you will have an attorney-client relationship, and can obtain legal advice on how to best handle your issues. This direct consultation should be done before you make any decisions in regards to your legal issue.