The typical course of a criminal case in Illinois is arrest, arraignment, court appearances, and finally a trial. At trial, both the state and the defendant offer evidence about the case, and then the jury renders a verdict. If the jury is convinced of the defendant’s guilt, he or she is convicted of the crime. Whether the case is a misdemeanor like theft or driving under the influence, or felony such as robbery or murder, all cases go through this process. But just because the jury has come to a verdict, that doesn’t necessarily mean the case is over. Defendants are entitled to pursue a review of their convictions before the Court of Appeals of Illinois.
Grounds to Appeal a Criminal Conviction in Illinois
Broadly speaking, a criminal appeal in Illinois must show one of two things. The defendant must show the appellate court that either the trial court committed a serious error that caused a wrongful conviction, or that the evidence was not sufficient to support the verdict.
Examples of a serious error on the part of the trial court include admitting a piece of evidence that was illegally obtained by police, or misinterpreting case law when ruling on a motion by the defendant. Often, these errors are quite obvious to attorneys. However, demonstrating that evidence was not sufficient to support the verdict is a much tougher argument on appeal. The court of appeals is quite deferential to the verdicts of juries. However, as the recent reversal of a murder conviction and 26-year prison sentence shows, the court is willing to vacate convictions for serious crimes when there is clearly not enough evidence in the record to support a conviction.
Pursuing a Sentencing Appeal in the State of Illinois
One other basis for appeal is not to seek a reversal of the conviction, but instead to seek a change in the sentence. Criminal sentences in Illinois are based on a variety of factors. All statutes state a maximum punishment, but judges decide on the appropriateness of a specific sentence based on additional factors, such as prior criminal history, previous convictions for the same crime, as well as mitigating factors such as provocation. Judges will sometimes misinterpret these guidelines, resulting in a sentence much lengthier than what is appropriate given a defendant’s crime and background. In these cases, the only recourse a defendant has is to seek a review of the sentence by a higher court that can reduce it.
Contact a Chicago Defense Lawyer
Going through the criminal justice system is difficult enough. It’s even worse if you put your trust in the system only to be convicted due to an error. You do not need to tolerate a wrongful conviction on your record or an excessive sentence. An experienced appellate attorney can petition the Illinois Court of Appeals to have your conviction vacated or sentence reduced. For more information, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation.
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