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Could you have had ineffective counsel?

When you are appealing a criminal conviction, one potential avenue to explore could be ineffective assistance of counsel. If the performance of your attorney at trial was deficient and it changed the outcome of your trial or sentencing, then you could have a persuasive argument.

To see if this might apply in your case, look at the following signs of bad lawyering. You must show that your lawyer fell breathtakingly short of what would be considered adequate representation. For example, say that you had two alibi witnesses who could have testified that you were nowhere near the scene of the crime when it happened. Your lawyer knew about these witnesses but never interviewed them, much less called them to the stand.

What could constitute ineffective counsel

You may have had a bad lawyer if he or she was guilty of the following:

  • Did not take steps to interview witnesses
  • Did not use obvious and common-sense measures when questioning witnesses and trying to impeach their credibility
  • Did not conduct DNA testing
  • Failed to report a conflict of interest
  • Did not meet filing deadlines
  • Never or rarely communicated with you
  • Used incorrect terminology or incorrect procedures
  • Made decisions without your input
  • Misinformed you about your case
  • Acted under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other substances
  • Allowed judges to answer juror questions without the lawyer being present
  • Slept during the trial

Many other things can lead to ineffective counsel as well. Of course, as touched on above, any one (or a combination) of these factors by itself might not necessarily lead to the overturning of your conviction. You must also show that the lawyer's behavior changed the outcome of your trial or sentencing. This is why many ineffective assistance of counsel arguments fail, which can be tremendously frustrating. For example, a lawyer may have slept through many parts of a trial or been drunk for them, but the evidence of guilt could have been so strong that the outcome seemed inevitable, or so the denial goes.

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