Criminal Conviction Appeals

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While being convicted of a crime may seem like the end of the world, the truth is there is a lengthy series of potential avenues in which to pursue relief after a judgment of conviction is entered. 

3 Potential Levels of Review

Being convicted of a felony in Nevada comes with at least three potential levels of review: 

The conviction can be attacked during a direct appeal can be challenged during post-conviction proceedings, and yet again via an appeal from the denial of post-conviction proceedings.

Direct Appeal in Nevada

Nevada felony cases generally follow the same format statewide:

After a conviction is entered whether by way of a guilty plea or trial, the person convicted has a right to what is called a direct appeal.  The time in which to request an appeal after judgment is entered is very limited, and it is advised you seek competent advice as soon as possible.

The issues which can be raised on direct appeal vary, and may be extremely limited if the conviction was the result of a guilty plea.  A direct appeal is presented to either the Nevada Court of Appeals or the Nevada Supreme Court depending on the nature of the underlying charges. 

A direct appeal is NOT a new trial.  Rather, the court which hears the case will determine if certain errors occurred during the trial court proceedings.  Even if an error is found to have occurred, it is possible the court would find the error “harmless” and deny you relief if it finds the error did not affect the outcome of your case. 

While the time it takes to brief, present, potentially argue, and receive a result in any particular case can vary, it could take the court anywhere from six to twenty-four months to decide your case.

State Post-Conviction

If your direct appeal does not result in the relief you want, you could potentially find relief in a petition for post-conviction relief.  These types of petitions are generally presented to the same trial court that originally heard your case, and are typically the point in time when you might present a case that your attorney during the trial court proceedings was ineffective.  A post-conviction petition is NOT a new trial.  However, depending on the allegations, you may be entitled to a hearing at which you could present evidence concerning your lawyer’s performance.  The trial court judge then decides if you are entitled to relief and, as with a direct appeal, it may be the case that an error occurred but you are not entitled to relief because that error did not affect the outcome of your case.

If you post-conviction petition does not get you the relief you want, you have the right to appeal the denial of it to the Nevada Court of Appeals or Nevada Supreme Court.  This process is much like that of a direct appeal in that a brief can be filed that explains what errors you feel the trial court made and you can ask that decision be reversed. 

Federal Habeas

In addition to the state court direct appeal and post-conviction process, a criminal conviction can also be challenged in federal court.  In order to do so, you must generally have utilized all of the state court techniques first. 

Federal law then allows the opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the conviction in federal court.  Like the state court remedies, this would NOT involve a new trial.  Rather, it is yet another opportunity to review potential errors that may have occurred.  As with the state court procedures, if the court determines an error occurred but did not affect the outcome of the case, relief will usually be denied. 

If relief is denied, the case could be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and potentially further to the United States Supreme Court if desired. 

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