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Don’t Represent Yourself – a Cautionary Story From An Appeals Court


A state Court of Appeal recently ruled that a legal defense’s failure to obtain a certificate of probable cause from the trial court does not bar an appeal in an appeals court of a criminal case – when a change in law happened after the notice of appeal was filed and the appeal decided.

This is good news for individuals who are trying to appeal their case, and a change in law after a guilty verdict and sentencing that could positively effect that verdict or sentencing can now be used as part of an appeal.

Criminal law is complex in CA, and the appeals process in which the case is being appealed raises many issues that a very experienced criminal defense attorney needs to be handling.

This is why it’s very important to work with a criminal defense attorney who is extremely skilled in all the ins and outs of criminal law, and up to date fully in the laws and rules that govern criminal defense and proceedings. Call Rodriguez Law Group, Inc, today for a free consultation on your case.

Let’s look at the case of a man accused of evading a police officer, and meth possession with intent to sell. He represented himself, which is a very serious mistake, and he pled guilty and he also admitted to having a prior “strike” crime with a “gang” enhancement. He was sentenced to 8 years and 4 months, and this included a 5-year “mandatory” enhancement of the sentence as he had a prior “strike.” So, what could have been a 3 and half year sentence, went to a 8 and half year sentence because of the prior “strike” which he admitted to while defending himself.

There were mistakes of bad defense all over the place for this individual. After sentencing, he wanted to appeal to a state appeals court. But, because he had pled guilty, he had not filed a request of “certificate of probable cause,” a document that has to be issued by the trial court upon written request and an explanation of the legal basis for the appeal.

So, he was stuck for about a year and half. However, the appellate court appointed an attorney for him, and meanwhile the state legislature had passed a bill giving trial courts authority not to impose the added 5-year sentence for a prior “strike.” His attorney argued before the appeals court that the man’s case should go back to trial court so the man could request a setting aside of the 5 years extra sentence.

The prosecution argued that without a certificate of probable cause from the trial court, this could not happen. The Court of Appeal, however, did rule that a lack of a certificate of probably cause does not bar going back to the trial court for an arguing of a case that has been effected by a change in state law. The appeals court allow the man’s case to go back to the trial court for a decision of removing the extra five years of the sentence. A good story, the real moral and instruction of which is to hire the best, affordable attorney for your case. Call us at Rodriguez Law Group, Inc.

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