Can You Appeal Your Sentence After Your Conviction?

What happens if you're convicted of a crime but you think the sentence you've been given is too harsh and unfair? Can you file an appeal? The answer depends on several factors and there are some things you should consider before you do.

How did your conviction happen?

If you accepted a plea agreement, you may or may not have the right to file an appeal on the sentence. Generally speaking, most plea bargains require you to admit to the crime and give up your right of appeal in order to get a reduced sentence. However, judges are not necessarily bound by plea agreements and sometimes issue a harsher sentence than agreed upon between the prosecution and defense. If that happens, you may be able to file an appeal.

If you were convicted at trial, you can always appeal your sentence–however, you have to act quickly. In many states and the federal court, you are only able to raise an appeal on your sentence within 30 days of your conviction.

What is the basis of your appeal?

In order to appeal the terms of your sentence, you have to have some basis for doing so (other than not liking it). There are several reasons you can use, depending on your situation:

  • You believe that the judge allowed a personal bias to influence your sentence, based on something the judge said or did, or a proven history of giving certain people harsher sentences. For example, you might be able to prove that the judge in your case has a history of giving people of Hispanic descent sentences that are twice as long as those given to non-Hispanics.
  • You believe that the judge didn't correctly apply the law. For example, the judge incorrectly applied an enhanced penalty to your case for violence, when no such penalty should have applied.
  • You believe that the judge did not correctly apply mitigating factors to your case. For example, the law may require a judge to take into account your lack of a criminal history before sentencing you. If that wasn't considered, you may be able to appeal.

Do you want to take the risk?

One thing that most people don't realize is that if they are successful in appealing their sentence, the appellate court will usually return the case back to the same judge for re-sentencing. That opens up a potential danger, because–as long as the judge doesn't violate the law–he or she can actually impose a stiffer sentence.

For more information on issues related to appeals, consider contacting an attorney like one from Law Office of Michael Marinaro & Associates in your area.