Florida Court Discusses the Right to Appeal Criminal Convictions

There are numerous measures in place at the state and federal levels that aim to protect people from unjust convictions. Among other things, people convicted of crimes have the right to file an appeal if they believe they were improperly convicted. If they fail to raise an argument on appeal, however, they cannot attempt to do so via a collateral challenge, as discussed in a recent opinion issued in a Florida case in which the defendant sought to overturn his conviction for drug trafficking and other offenses. If you are accused of committing a drug crime, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota drug crime defense attorney to assess your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon, using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possessing 50 or more grams of methamphetamine in violation of federal law. He pleaded guilty without a plea agreement and was sentenced to 160 months in prison. He did not appeal his conviction or sentence. He then moved to vacate his conviction for using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in light of a recent ruling that invalidated the relevant statute’s residual clause pertaining to crimes of violence.

The Right to Appeal Criminal Convictions

The court denied the defendant’s request for relief on the grounds that his argument lacked merit and was procedurally defaulted. The court explained that collateral challenges could not do the work of an appeal. In other words, once a defendant has exhausted or waived the change to appeal, the courts are entitled to presume that the defendant’s conviction is fair and final. As such, claims that the defendant could avail themselves of but did not raise in a previous proceeding are procedurally defaulted and typically are barred from consideration on collateral review.

In the subject case, the court noted that the defendant did not challenge the relevant statute as unconstitutional on direct appeal or during his sentencing. As such, the court found that his claim procedurally defaulted. The court noted that there are three exceptions to the procedural default rule: for prejudice and cause, for a miscarriage of justice, and for actual innocence.

In order to demonstrate actual prejudice, a defendant must show that some objective factor external to his defense impaired his efforts to raise the issue earlier and that the alleged error worked to his substantial disadvantage. Here, the defendant failed to offer any such proof. Thus, the court denied his request.

Meet with a Capable Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney

People convicted of drug crimes may face lengthy prison sentences, but in some instances, they may be able to successfully appeal their convictions. If you are charged with a drug crime, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. The capable Sarasota criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law are dedicated to defending people charged with crimes in the Florida courts, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can reach Hanlon Law via the online form or by calling 941-462-1789 to set up a meeting.

Contact Information