What can I do if I Have Already Been Convicted?

Once a defendant is convicted and sentenced, she may appeal either the conviction or the sentence. Appeals are tough to win — but some trials contain errors that can lead to reversal. In order to appeal, you must file a "Notice of Appeal" as soon as your case ends in the lower court — make sure to ask your lawyer about this. Even if a person loses on "direct appeal," he may still pursue his case through "habeas corpus" which is available both in state and federal court. This so-called "post-conviction relief" is even more rarely granted — but it gives a sliver of hope to those who are wrongly convicted and lose on appeal.

Finally, the consequences of a felony or even misdemeanor record can be severe even after the prison sentence is served. A person can be denied employment, deported, or in some states lose the right to vote as a result of a criminal conviction. Some of these disabilities can be avoided in certain circumstances.