Mistakes in applying state law can justify a criminal appeal

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Criminal appeals

The Maryland criminal justice system is relatively complex. As a result, laypeople can easily make mistakes when trying to defend themselves based on state statutes or their understanding of cases that set precedents.

Therefore, lawyers and judges help with the interpretation and enforcement of legal statutes. In a criminal trial, a prosecutor may make several claims about what state law allows or prohibits. Defense attorneys may also base a part of their strategies on the nuances of state law or their understanding of prior legal precedents set in similar cases.

Defendants preparing for trial usually have faith in the system and assume that judges and the courts can properly interpret and apply state law. However, sometimes the opposite occurs. A defendant may end up losing their case because of what they believe is a misinterpretation of the law. In that scenario, a defendant may have grounds to appeal the outcome of their original trial.

The higher courts can review the issue

When someone believes that the courts erred in their interpretation of the law, the appellate courts can help. The situation does not need to involve intentional misconduct but only an unintentional error when applying the law.

An appeal is not a new trial but rather a review of the prior one by a higher court. If there was a misinterpretation of the law, an appeal can lead to numerous positive outcomes for the criminal defendant. A defendant’s lawyer typically needs to go over the presumed legal error at length in briefs submitted to the court for consideration. The appellate courts then issue an opinion on the contested matter from the original trial.

The courts can potentially agree with the lower court by affirming or upholding their judgment. The appellate courts also have the authority to vacate or reverse the judgment entered during the initial trial. They can adjust the judgment or remand the case by sending it back to the lower courts to reevaluate. In scenarios where the appellate courts remand the case to the criminal courts, there is usually some clarification on the law or precedent given in the opinion of the court.

A successful appeal keeps someone’s case alive and gives them an opportunity to finally beat the unfair charges they’ve faced. Learning more about the appeals process may benefit someone shocked by an unfavorable outcome at a criminal trial.