January 7, 2018
A criminal prosecution has several stages and your trial is not always the final stage. If you’re convicted, you will then have the right to an appeal, in which you ask a higher court to set aside your guilty verdict because of errors made in the court below. But to set yourself up for a successful appeal, you need to give the trial judge a chance to correct any errors they make and have all errors included as part of the trial record, which means you need to raise proper objections at trial.
Keeping Evidence Out
If you’ve ever watched a criminal trial in a movie, then you’re familiar with lawyers standing up and yelling, “Objection, Your Honor!” whenever they don’t want a witness to answer a question. These objections serve a very useful purpose. They alert the judge to the fact that possibly inadmissible information is being elicited, thus giving the judge a chance to keep the evidence out.
- There are many reasons why certain evidence should not be admitted. Some of the more common include the following:
- The testimony is hearsay, which is a second-hand testimony.
- The information will be unfairly prejudicial. For example, a prosecutor typically can’t tell the jury you’ve been convicted of the same crime before.
- The information is irrelevant and threatens to confuse the jury.
You have the right to a fair trial and a judge should keep out this and other unfair evidence. If they do not, a conviction might have a chance to be reversed on appeal.
What Happens if You Don’t Object?
Unfortunately, the law doesn’t require the judge to act as your advocate and keep out all unfair testimony. Instead, you have a lawyer who needs to object for you. By raising a proper objection, you preserve the issue for the appellate court to consider on appeal.
If you don’t preserve the error on the record, the appellate court usually will not even consider it. This means you can be denied a fair trial but still have your conviction affirmed—all because you failed to raise the right objection at the right time. As should be clear, the importance of raising objections and preserving errors is one reason criminal defendants should never represent themselves at their own trials.
How to Properly Object
You need to do more than simply leap to your feet and shout, “Objection, Your Honor!” to challenge evidence or properly preserve an error. Instead, you must:
- Make a contemporaneous objection.
- State the legal ground. For example, if you are objecting to hearsay, you shouldn’t say, “Objection, the information is irrelevant.” That isn’t the proper legal ground.
- Obtain a ruling from the court on the objection.
Some errors are so fundamental that an appellate court will consider them without a proper objection at trial—but not many are. It is in your best interest to hire an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney who can raise an objection in the proper way.
Contact a St. Petersburg, Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
Criminal trials are fast-moving and fluid and it’s easy to get confused. You need a seasoned courtroom defense attorney who can anticipate unfair testimony and raise proper objections. At Khonsari Law Group, we’ve handled countless trials and make sure everything is in order so that our clients can bring a successful appeal should they be convicted. Contact us today at (727) 269-5300 for a free consultation.