If you have been accused of a crime in Florida, your first line of defense – if the matter goes to trial, and you have pleaded not guilty – is to contest the charges in court. If you and your attorney are successful in establishing at least a reasonable doubt as to the prosecution’s charges, then you will prevail and be acquitted.
Not all trial court criminal defenses are successful, however, and if you are convicted of the crime you have been accused of, your next question will be whether to pursue an appeal of the conviction.
Florida law is similar to that of most states in that there are certain prerequisites that you must establish before you can appeal, and some procedural requirements that your attorney must adhere to ensure that your appeal is not defeated by a technicality.
The basis of any appeal is that during the trial, an error took place, making the resulting conviction unjust. In other words, the error must be what the legal system describes as “prejudicial.”
Trial courts can, and do, make minor mistakes in many criminal actions; but if the nature of the mistake was such that it would not have affected the outcome of the case, then the error was not prejudicial and cannot form the foundation for an appeal.
Another key requirement in identifying an error that would justify making an appeal of the conviction is that your defense lawyer must “preserve” the error for appeal.
What this means is that if a prejudicial error occurs the defense attorney must make an objection to it at the time it happens. The failure to raise a timely objection to a prejudicial error can have the effect of precluding your ability to base an appeal on that error.
What is important to remember is that for a criminal defense attorney the vigorous representation of a client must not only focus on securing an acquittal, but also being constantly alert to the possibility of a prejudicial error during the trial so that if one occurs it does not slip by without an objection.
If you are accused of a crime, retaining a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense firm will improve your chances of both a vigorous defense as well as maximizing your chances for a successful appeal should that become necessary.