Trial Court’s Failure to Inquire into Reasons for Defendant’s Desire to Move for a New Trial Based on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Can Reverse His Criminal Conviction

By: Wallin & Klarich

You must know that in California the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel may be asserted as the basis of your motion for a new trial pursuant to Penal Code section 1181. When the trial court failed to conduct any inquiry at all into the basis for your motion for a new trial, your conviction must be revered unless the record shows beyond a reasonable doubt that further inquiry into your claim would not have led to a different result in your case. As such, you will need to hire an experienced criminal law attorney who will carefully examine the records of your criminal case to make sure that you are entitled for your conviction to be reversed on appeal.

In a hearing on a motion for a new trial based on incompetence of a trial counsel, the trial court has to ask questions to the defendant in order to fully understand his or her reasons for believing that such claim is valid. However, a judge cannot simply avoid conducting such inquiry because you could have made such request at a later date, or that this issue might have been reviewed by an appellate lawyer assigned to you by the court. Rather, there are two basic principles you have to keep in mind. If you claim is based upon acts or omissions that occurred at trial or the effect of which may be evaluated by what occurred at trial, the court may rule on the motion for a new trial without substituting new counsel. If, on the other hand, the claim of incompetence relates to acts or omissions that did not occur at trial or the judge cannot evaluate your claim by what occurred at trial, then, the court must determine whether to substitute new counsel to develop the claim of incompetence. Under either of the two scenarios, the court has an affirmative duty to elicit details regarding the strength of your claim.
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If the court has failed to do so in your case, you might seek reversal of your criminal conviction based on prejudicial error committed by the court.

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Posted In: Appeals