Greg Smith and Associates, Criminal Defense Attorneys

Salt Lake City (Murray)
Free 15 Min. Consultation  :  Nights & Weekends  :  Easy Payments

801-651-1512  -  24/7

Free 15 Min. Consultation 24/7

801-651-1512

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Salt Lake City Office
111 E. 5600 S. #105
Murray, UT 84107

Telephone: 801-651-1512
Fax: 801-255-2134
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U.S. Supreme Court Offers Small Federal Criminal Appeals Exception


The U.S. Supreme Court recently offered a criminal appeals exception in the case Martinez v. Ryan.

The appeals process is one of the most difficult areas of criminal law. Filing a successful appeal of a criminal conviction requires a unique combination of writing skills, legal knowledge and the experience necessary to construct technical legal arguments.

Ineffective trial counsel is one of the main grounds for an appeal. Defendants are entitled to effective assistance of counsel in criminal proceedings under the rule established in the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case Strickland v. Washington. Ineffective trial counsel can result in the conviction of an innocent person and make it hard for the wrongfully convicted individual to successfully appeal his or her sentence.

In a recent death row case concerning an ineffective trial lawyer, a federal judge noted that there were "disturbing uncertainties" as to whether the defendant actually committed the murder he was convicted of. The judge also noted that the man's innocence is wholly irrelevant as to whether he gets out of jail.

"Federal law does not recognize actual innocence as a mechanism to overturn an otherwise valid conviction," the judge wrote in an order denying the defendant's motion for a new trial.

For defendants who are convicted due to inadequate trial counsel, it is important to hire an effective criminal appeals lawyer. In addition to being a complicated and technical process, an appeal is a high-stakes proceeding because arguments that are not properly raised during an initial appeal are often lost forever.

Supreme Court Allows Ineffective Trial Counsel Arguments in Habeas Proceedings

The U.S. Supreme Court recently made a small exception to the harsh federal rules regarding defaulted arguments in criminal appeals. In the case Martinez v. Ryan, the justices decided that a defendant may be excused for failing to raise the ineffectiveness of his or her trial counsel in later appeals if the defendant's state post-conviction counsel is also ineffective in raising this argument.

This means that in some circumstances, a defendant can now raise the ineffectiveness of trial counsel for the first time in a federal petition, called a habeas corpus proceeding. Previously, defendants lost the ability to argue that they received ineffective trial counsel if they did not raise the issue in their initial appeal.

The Supreme Court will also allow defendants to raise their ineffective assistance of counsel claims in federal habeas proceedings if a state failed to appoint an appellate attorney for an initial-review collateral proceeding.

An "Equitable" Criminal Appeals Exception

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy stressed that the court was not creating a right to effective post-conviction counsel for defendants. The ruling simply makes a narrow exception that will force lower courts to carefully consider arguments regarding the effective assistance of trial counsel. This exception is therefore an equitable exception, not a constitutional one, meaning that the court will allow these otherwise barred ineffective assistance of counsel claims out of a sense of fairness, not based on any law or constitutional proscription.

Another important factor to note is that all of the other rules governing appeals are still intact. This means that any error at the trial level has to be substantial to support a meritorious appeal. The court reiterated this principle in the Martinez opinion.

"To overcome the default, a prisoner must also demonstrate that the underlying ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim is a substantial one, which is to say that the prisoner must demonstrate that the claim has some merit," Kennedy wrote.

The default presumption in criminal appeals is that trial counsel rendered effective assistance. That is part of the reason why appeals are so difficult - defendants must show that their trial attorneys committed an objectively substantial error that actually changed the outcome of the trial or otherwise prejudiced the defendant's rights.

The challenges of bringing a successful appeal are beyond the skills and resources of many law firms. An experienced appellate law firm will use a team of experts to go through the entire criminal record of a trial, including the court transcripts. Effective appellate lawyers will then demonstrate their knowledge of case law to highlight the errors of law that occurred at the trial level and make the strongest possible case for the reversal of a defendant's conviction.

Clients with disabilities or impairments

Access to our office is available to clients and their family members at all times. Special equipment and communication devices are available upon request for our clients with visual, hearing, speech and physical impairment. In addition, arrangements can be made for verbal or sign language interpreters if needed to communicate between our attorneys and the client and family. Please notify our law office if any additional accommodations related to your disability or impairment are necessary to make your consultation more comfortable.

I understand that I am contacting a corporation, not an individual, and that if I do business with the law firm, it will be with that corporation, not any individual(s). I understand that Greg Smith and Associates is not the legal name of the law firm, rather, it is "Affordable Legal Advocates, PC." I also understand that whatever may relate to, or arise out of, any communication with the law firm, which results in any type of legal action, such must be brought in the Third District Court of Utah, West Jordan Department, and that this is mandatory not permissive.

We Can Help You Now

Call 801-651-1512   Call Now 24/7 Free Consultation: 24/7, nights & weekends
Typically No Retainer - Easy Payments!*

Use our secure private form

I have read the disclaimer.

Feedback From Satisfied Clients

"The domestic violence and DUI crimes that I was charged with would have ruined my career. Thank you for saving me! You are worth every penny I paid you."

More Testimonials >

Avvo Clients' Choice Award. 5 Stars
5 Star Rating


   Review Us On Google

Office Location

Salt Lake City Office
111 E. 5600 S. #105
Murray, UT 84107

Telephone: 801-651-1512
Fax: 801-255-2134
Salt Lake City Law Office Map




Greg Smith and Associates, Criminal Law Attorneys, located in Salt Lake City (SLC), also represents clients from communities such as Provo, Orem, Payson, Ogden, Park City, Sandy, Draper, West Valley City, Bountiful, Murray, West Jordan, Taylorsville, Farmington, Alta, Bluffdale, Cottonwood Heights, Draper, Herriman, Holladay, Midvale, Murray, Riverton, Sandy, South Jordan, South Salt Lake, Taylorsville, West Jordan, West Valley City and Richfield; and counties including Salt Lake County, Summit County, Tooele County, Sevier County and Davis County, Utah.

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Disclaimer

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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