Unless you have a law degree, you likely rely on an attorney to guide you through any legal matters you may encounter. Even the simplest matters of law can have complicated elements, and those laws may change frequently, making it difficult to keep up with current expectations.
If you are dealing with a traffic ticket or a minor legal issue, you might be comfortable handling the matter yourself. But if your freedom and your future are on the line, having competent legal representation is critical. If you believe your attorney failed to provide adequate representation in your case, you may have grounds to appeal the outcome.
Appealing based on inadequate counsel
An appeal does not mean the court will re-try your case. During an appeal, a panel of judges will review specific court proceedings to see if you received a fair trial. These proceedings may include errors the judge made in his or her rulings, misconduct among jury members, or violations of your rights by the prosecution. However, your own attorney may damage your case by failing to provide competent and adequate counsel, such as:
- Neglecting to thoroughly investigate your case
- Representing you without recognizing a conflict of interests
- Allowing damaging testimony or evidence without raising objections
- Failing to provide witnesses to support your defense, such as experts
- Not interviewing or cross-examining those who testify against you
- Not pursuing important forensic testing, such as DNA, blood tests or ballistics
- Failing to file motions or appeals before their deadlines
Every trial has minor mistakes, and no attorney can be perfect. However, if the mistakes or omissions your attorney made during your trial resulted in a negative outcome for you, an appeal may be in order.
Proving ineffective counsel
You may understand that you have the right to an attorney, but you also have the right to expect your attorney to provide adequate and effective counsel. Your goal on appeal is to prove that your lawyer’s action or inaction did not meet the standards of effective counsel. Additionally, you must demonstrate to the appeals court that the incompetence or neglect of your attorney deprived you of your constitutional right to a fair trial and gravely affected its outcome.
A successful appeal on these grounds may lead the panel of judges to overturn your guilty verdict. However, because New Mexico appeals courts generally presume an attorney’s representation of a client is reasonable and adequate, you can expect seeking an appeal on these grounds to be an arduous and challenging task.