Anyone who has been convicted of a crime in Florida may wonder if there is anything that they can do after the judgment has already been rendered and filed. Most courts of appeals will not overturn a guilty verdict after a jury or bench trial unless the appellant can demonstrate that a serious error occurred.
In post-conviction matters, a defendant is not guaranteed a new trial. Even if a judge or jury committed an error at the trial court level, if the court of appeals deems the error harmless, which means that it probably did not affect the outcome of the trial, the conviction will not be overturned on appeal.
If a serious error occurred, a defendant may be entitled to a new trial. Examples of a serious error include a coerced confession that was used against the defendant at trial or the imposition of an illegal sentence. An illegal sentence might be one that exceeds the number of years a defendant can be punished for a particular crime.
Appeals must be filed within a time frame specified by law. If filing an appeal is not an option, the defendant may be able to file a writ to ask the lower court to take an action such as vacating the original sentence.
An attorney with experience in post-conviction matters may be able to assist defendants who want to get their conviction overturned. A court of appeals will usually only consider evidence and arguments that were presented at the trial court level. If new evidence is discovered, an attorney may be able to file a motion to request a new trial.
Even if a conviction cannot be overturned, there might be other options to get the conviction expunged, sealed or pardoned. This can be especially important for a person who has already served their sentence and who wants to have a clean record going forward.