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Can You Appeal a Criminal Conviction Even if You Pleaded Guilty?


If you are convicted of a crime following a trial, you have the right to appeal. An appeal is basically a request to have a higher court review what took place at the trial and decide if there were any legal errors made that violated your rights. An appeal is not the same thing as a new trial, although an appellate court can order one if the appeal is successful.

One question we often get is, “Can you still appeal even if you plead guilty?” The answer to the question depends on the circumstances of the case. For instance, if you negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution–e.g., you agree to plead guilty to a reduced charge in exchange for a specific sentencing recommendation–the terms of the deal typically require you to waive your right to appeal. So once your guilty plea is entered and accepted, you have to live with your decision.

That said, you can choose to plead guilty to a crime but “reserve” your right to appeal a specific issue that is considered dispositive to the case. This often comes up in drunk driving and drug cases. For example, if the police conduct a search or your home and find drugs, you might agree to plead guilty to possession of a controlled substance but reserve your right to appeal the legality of the search.

If you do not reserve a specific issue and plead guilty–or even “no contest”–your avenues for appeal are quite limited. A Florida appeals court will only review an unreserved issue following a guilty or no-contest plea if the trial court lacked jurisdiction, there was some violation of the plea agreement, the plea was involuntary (i.e., it was coerced), or there was a mistake made during the imposition of sentence.

Appeals and Anders Briefs

Another question that often comes up is, “Do I have the right to a court-appointed attorney if I appeal my conviction.” The answer is yes, the Supreme Court has said the Sixth Amendment right to counsel extends to the first appeal filed by a criminal defendant. But there is an asterisk–your court-appointed attorney may choose to withdraw from the case if they believe your appeal is frivolous.

When an attorney withdraws, they need to file what is called an Anders brief. The name comes from a 1967 Supreme Court decision establishing the rule. Essentially, the court-appointed lawyer must still review the case and identify any possible grounds for appeal. The court then conducts its own review and, if it agrees with the attorney that the appeal is frivolous, then that is the end of the matter.

One way to protect yourself against a possible Anders brief situation is to work with your own Orlando criminal defense lawyer who can provide you with both an honest appraisal or your case as well as zealous representation in court. Contact the Baez Law Firm today if you need to speak with an attorney today.

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