Few things in life are scarier than facing a prison sentence. After all, society intends for incarceration to be punishment for bad conduct. Even worse, unless you have a law degree, the Texas court system can seem downright confusing. Still, if a judge or jury has convicted you of a crime, you may want to appeal your conviction.

Unfortunately, you cannot file a criminal appeal simply because you do not like the outcome of your case. On the contrary, you must have a legally valid reason to ask a higher court to overturn your conviction. Generally, Texas law allows appeals in the following four situations:

1. There was not enough evidence to convict you 

You must realize that appellate courts give a tremendous amount of weight to the actions of trial judges and juries. This makes sense, as trial courts have the opportunity to consider evidence, listen to witnesses, see you and otherwise evaluate your case. Appellate courts, by contrast, generally work off transcripts. Still, if there was simply not enough evidence to convict you of a crime, filing an appeal is a good strategy. 

2. You did not have effective legal counsel 

The Bill of Rights guarantees you the right to effective legal counsel during criminal proceedings. If you did not have adequate representation at your trial, an appellate court may agree to give you a new one. 

3. The judge abused his or her discretion 

Trial judges have wide latitude to run their courtrooms as they see fit. Still, they cannot get away with everything. If your trial judge’s rulings, behavior or other actions are arbitrary, unreasonable or otherwise inappropriate, an appellate court may overturn your conviction.

4. The judge made a plain error 

John Adams famously remarked that the United States is “a government of laws not of men.” As such, during a criminal prosecution, judges must apply the law correctly. Because judges are human, they occasionally make mistakes. If your judge made a plain error that infringed upon your fundamental rights, filing an appeal may be the best way to correct the mistake.

No two criminal cases are the same. Whether you can appeal your criminal conviction likely requires a careful and comprehensive legal analysis. Nonetheless, pursuing an appeal may be the best way to ensure you receive the justice you deserve.