Trial Court

Most criminal court systems are established on a three tier system consisting of a trial court, an appellate court and a high court.

The main function of the trial court is to make factual findings based on evidence presented to it. It is the primary court in the system that takes evidence. Although there are circumstances in which an appellate or high court may take new evidence, these circumstances are very limited. Therefore, it is extremely important that a complete and compelling evidentiary record be created and established at the trial court level. The strength of any appellate case is measured against the quality of the evidentiary record in the trial court.

After establishing an evidentiary record, the trial court will then make a decision about the case by applying the existing law to the factual record.

The importance of experienced counsel at the trial court cannot be overstated. An experienced attorney can navigate the complex evidentiary rules to ensure a thorough factual record; can properly preserve issues for appellate review, and advocate for how the facts should be interpreted by the court. Equally important is that an experienced criminal lawyer can negotiate charges and sentences with the district attorney or city attorney prosecuting the case to avoid the most serious consequences such as jail time or mandatory deportation.

Aliens who are charged with crimes are exceedingly vulnerable to unexpected consequences of what happens in the trial court. Regardless of the charge level or the sentence imposed, many crimes will render an alien deportable, ineligible to adjust his or her status, or ineligible to naturalize. For instance, ANY recent crime relating to a federally scheduled controlled substance (other than simple possession of a small amount of marijuana) will render an alien ineligible for a green card FOR LIFE. Any domestic violence conviction will render an alien deportable. Most criminal defense attorneys are not conversant with the ever-changing landscape of immigration law. For that reason, it is important for aliens facing criminal prosecution to hire an advocate who is intimately familiar with immigration law.

At Berke Law Offices, Inc. we are equipped with the knowledge to navigate our clients through the criminal justice system with an eye toward controlling the collateral consequences of a conviction.

Sometimes, of course, a case cannot be resolved without a trial. There are many attorneys who shy away from doing jury trials. At Berke Law Offices, Inc. we have a long track record of acquittals and hung juries, and we regularly appear in federal and state criminal courts in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Orange Counties.

Appellate Courts

Appellate Courts, both the first appellate court and the high court, review decisions made in the trial court at the request of a party. If no appeal is filed, the decision of the trial court becomes final. As a general rule, an appellate court will only make decisions on legal issues and does not take new evidence. Issues that are brought to appellate courts include whether the trial court properly included or excluded evidence, whether the trial court violated a right of one of the parties either by a procedural or legal error, whether the trial court correctly stated the law, and whether the trial court properly applied the law to the facts of the case.

Because appeals are usually based on legal errors, it is extremely important to hire experienced counsel for appellate proceedings, and it is also extremely important that a complete evidentiary record has been created in the trial court. An appellate attorney will review all of the transcripts of the proceedings in the trial court and all of the documents submitted in the trial court to identify any errors that can be addressed on appeal.

Appeals are extremely time sensitive. The failure to file an appeal in the time permitted for filing an appeal can result in a waiver of the right to pursue an appeal. There are certain issues that can still be addressed to the trial court even if the case is not appealed by motion or by writ. An experienced attorney can advise a client as to the best mechanism to pursue.

Berke Law Offices, Inc. is experienced with both state and federal criminal appeals. We are thorough in our analysis and the arguments that we present on appeal.

Post-Conviction Relief

Old convictions present a host of problems for immigrants and citizens alike. Frequently the consequences of a criminal conviction do not become apparent until many years after the conviction such as when applying for an immigration benefit, applying for certain jobs or licenses, or seeking to vote for an election.

California has many mechanisms available for challenging old convictions even if the time to file a direct appeal has expired. There are numerous statutory and common law remedies available to attack the validity of an old conviction.

Post-conviction relief takes on two primary forms: rehabilitative and non-rehabilitative. Rehabilitative relief includes expungements, certificates of rehabilitation, and pardons. Non-rehabilitative relief includes statutory motions to vacate and extraordinary writs such as writs of coram nobis and habeas corpus.

There are many factors that must be considered before filing for post-conviction relief. For instance, expungements are almost always completely ineffective for immigration purposes and can actually damage the ability to pursue non-rehabilitative relief.

Especially in cases in which post conviction relief is sought to solve an immigration issue, it is exceedingly important that the matter be handled by an attorney who is conversant with immigration law given that not all forms of post-conviction relief are effective for immigration purposes.

Berke Law Offices, Inc. is experienced and has been successful in pursuing all types of collateral relief.

There are other matters that arise after a conviction as well including probation violations, probation modifications, and warrant surrenders. Berke Law Offices, Inc. is experienced in all these types of matters across California.