A criminal conviction may not be the end of road for your case. Even after you have been convicted or sentenced, you may still be able to challenge the outcome of your case by seeking post conviction relief or filing a direct appeal. Otherwise, if you have completed your sentence and want to move past your criminal conviction, you may be eligible to set aside your criminal conviction or restore your civil rights.
TYPES OF APPEALS
If you have been convicted of a crime at trial or pled guilty and been sentenced it doesn’t mean that your case is entirely over. Even after being sentenced for a crime there are a number of different avenues for appeal worth exploring. With a wealth of experience handling criminal appeals, the attorneys at Feldman & Royle routinely handled the following matters:
Post Conviction Relief. After you have been convicted and sentenced, you have a right to file a post conviction relief petition asking for a new trial or a new sentencing hearing. Post conviction relief petitions are criminal appeals that are filed with the same trial court where you were convicted and sentenced.
The Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure specify the types of issues allowed in a post conviction relief petition. Rule 32 applies to petitions filed after you have been found guilty at trial (or sentenced after a probation violation hearing). And Rule 33 applies to petitions filed after you have pled guilty (or after admitting to violating probation or found in automatic violation of probation).
The most common type of claim in post conviction relief petitions is that you had the ineffective assistance of counsel. This is a constitutional claim that you can only raise in post conviction relief proceedings.
Direct Appeals. You can only appeal your case if you were convicted after a trial. When you plead guilty you are ensuring a better outcome than if you were convicted after going to trial. But as part of your plead deal you give up your right to an appeal.
A direct appeal is filed with a higher court to ask the higher court to review the lower court’s proceedings and outcome. In direct criminal appeals, you argue that your rights were violated in the trial court in some way so that you deserve a new trial or a new sentencing hearing. Read more
Expungement. In Arizona, if you have been convicted of a crime and completed your sentence, you may be eligible to apply to the court that sentenced you to have your conviction set aside pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-905 and Rule 29 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. If the court grants your request, then the judge signs an order setting aside your judgment of guilt, dismisses the charges against you, and releases you from all penalties and disabilities resulting from your conviction.
True expungement of your criminal record is unfortunately not available in Arizona. When your conviction is set aside, then your conviction still appears on your record but your record will also indicate that the conviction has been set aside. Unlike expungement, your set aside conviction remains part of public record because Arizona law considers it to be a matter of public protection.
Setting aside your conviction still offers many benefits. As you seek to move past your criminal conviction, a court order officially vacating your judgment of guilt and dismissing the charges against you can provide personal, emotional, and psychological relief. Additionally, having a criminal record makes it difficult applying for a job. But if your conviction is set aside, then the court’s order setting aside your conviction will appear in your criminal record. You will also be able to provide to your potential employer proof that your conviction was set aside. The same is true regarding housing issues when submitting a rental or loan application. Read more
Restoration of Civil Rights. When you are convicted of a felony, you lose your civil rights to vote, to hold public office, to serve as a juror, and to possess a gun. For a first-time felony conviction, your civil rights are automatically restored—except for your right to possess a gun—if you:
- Complete your probation term or receive an absolute discharge from prison; and
- Pay any ordered victim restitution.
If you have been convicted of two or more felonies, then you have to apply to the court to have your civil rights restored under Rule 30.2 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure.
To restore your gun rights, you must always file an application under Rule 30.2 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. You have to wait until 2 years after you are discharged from probation or prison before you can apply to restore your gun rights. If you were convicted of a serious offense as defined in A.R.S. § 13-706, then you have to wait until 10 years after you are discharged from probation or prison before you can apply. If you were convicted of a dangerous offense, then you cannot restore your gun rights. Often, a conviction for a serious offense is also a dangerous offense, which means you cannot restore your gun rights even after 10 years.
The Different Court Levels in Arizona
In criminal appeals where you file your post conviction relief petition or your direct appeal depends on where you were convicted. City courts, justice courts, and superior courts are trial courts. The appellate courts in Arizona are the Arizona Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court. But superior courts act as appellate courts for appeals from city courts and justice courts.
When evaluating cases for criminal appeals, it is important to understand the different court levels in Arizona:
1. City Courts and Justice Courts
- City courts and justice courts are trial courts.
- City courts (also called municipal courts) handle misdemeanor crimes and criminal traffic violations committed in their city.
- Each county has justice courts that can handle all Arizona misdemeanor crimes and criminal traffic violations. Some justice courts handle preliminary hearings for felonies.
- City courts share jurisdiction with justice courts over Arizona crimes committed within their city. For example, if a DUI is committed in the City of Phoenix, then the arresting officer could choose to bring the charge to the Phoenix Municipal Court or to one of the Maricopa County justice courts.
- Post conviction relief petitions are filed with the same city court or justice court in which you were convicted and sentenced.
- Direct appeals from a city court or justice court are filed with that county’s superior court.
2. Superior Court
- Each county has a superior court that handles all types of criminal cases, mainly felony crimes.
- Superior court is a trial court. But the superior court also acts as an appellate court for the lower courts. This means that the superior court reviews cases and decisions that are appealed from city courts and justice courts.
- Post conviction relief petitions are filed with the same superior court in which you were convicted and sentenced.
- Direct appeals from a superior court are filed with the Arizona Court of Appeals.
3. Arizona Court of Appeals.
- This is an intermediate appellate court.
- The Arizona Court of Appeals reviews cases and decisions that are appealed from the superior court. The exception is death penalty cases, which are directly appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court from the superior court.
- Cases are decided by a panel of three judges.
4. Arizona Supreme Court
- This is the highest appellate court in Arizona. It is called the court of last resort because it is the highest state court.
- The Arizona Supreme Court reviews appeals of decisions by the Arizona Court of Appeals. And it reviews appeals of death penalty cases directly from the superior court.
- The Arizona Supreme Court chooses which cases it is willing to hear. It can refuse to review an appeal form the lower court. The exception is death penalty cases, which are automatically reviewed by the Arizona Supreme Court.
Criminal Appeals Lawyer
Criminal appeals in Arizona require an understanding of the strict deadlines, applicable law and a skillset for how to apply specific facts to a legal framework. Criminal appeals can often be time consuming, legally challenging and costly— don’t trust criminal appeals to just any lawyer. The lawyers at Feldman & Royle have extensive expertise in criminal appeals, post conviction relief matters and expungement. Contact an experienced criminal appeals lawyer at Feldman & Royle to discuss what options you have after you have been convicted of a crime.