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Florida Appeals and Post-Conviction Relief

Top-Rated Criminal Appellate Attorney in West Palm Beach

At the Law Office of Ann Fitz, a large portion of our practice is devoted to challenging Florida criminal convictions on direct appeal and in Rule 3.850 proceedings.  Ann Fitz has represented clients in the Florida District Court of Appeals (DCA) for the Second, Sixth, and Fourth Districts for convictions originating out of the Circuit Courts for Palm Beach, Broward, Martin, St. Lucie, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Orange, and Polk Counties.

Ann Fitz will conduct a thorough review of the Circuit Court record, including court filings and transcripts, and the law to determine the strongest arguments that can be made in your case.  Her job is to show that material mistakes made in the Circuit Court entitle you to a reversal or an acquittal, or to argue that ineffective assistance of counsel is grounds for vacating, setting aside, or correcting your criminal sentence.

Preserving the Record for Appeal

Pursuant to Florida law, an error must be preserved to be able to raise it on direct appeal; otherwise, the error is considered waived.  Proper preservation of error generally requires three steps.  First, the party must make a timely, contemporaneous objection at the time of the alleged error.  Second, the party must state a legal ground for the objection.  Third, the argument on appeal must be the same argument asserted as a legal ground for the objection.

If defense counsel did not properly preserve an error in the Circuit Court, the District Court of Appeals will not consider an argument raising that issue.  However, unpreserved issues may be raised under a theory of ineffective assistance of counsel - that counsel's failure to object to the error resulted in prejudice to the defendant.  Under Florida law, the proper vehicle to raise ineffective assistance of counsel is a Rule 3.850 Motion, not direct appeal.

Fundamental Errors

A fundamental error - which has been defined as an “error that reaches down into the validity of the trial itself to the extent that a verdict of guilty could not have been obtained without the assistance of the alleged error” or an “error so prejudicial as to vitiate the entire trial” - doesn't have to be preserved in order to be raised on appeal. 

In criminal cases, for example, an improper jury instruction may be held to be fundamental error because an incorrect or improper jury instruction in a criminal case is more likely to violate not only the defendant's due process right to a fair trial, but also the derivative right to a jury trial. The theory here is that if the jury followed the law as it was instructed, then the ultimate verdict is presumably predicated upon the legal premises provided in the jury instructions. 

Jurisdictional issues are another example of the kinds of claims that can be raised in the appellate court despite the absence of a contemporaneous objection in the trial court. The jurisdiction of the trial court is a fundamental matter that is permitted to be raised for the first time on appeal. If a trial court acts in excess of its jurisdiction, for example, the resulting error is one that necessarily affects the foundation of the case.

Don't Wait - Florida Courts Have Strict Time Limits for Filing

Timing is important as there are strict statute of limitations for Florida appellate and post-conviction relief. Under Florida law, a Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of sentencing.  The Appellant's Initial Brief is due within 30 days from the transmission of the record from the Circuit Court to the District Court of Appeals.  It is therefore imperative for you to contact us immediately for a review of your case. Contact the Law Office of Ann Fitz by calling 561-264-4005 or by using the contact form.

Read More:

Overview of Florida Criminal Appeals 

Rule 3.850 Motions in Florida

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The Law Office of Ann Fitz is committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense law issues in Florida. We offer a Free Consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.