Penal Code § 1181
In California, a criminal defendant may be entitled to a new trial if they successfully bring a motion for a new trial pursuant to California Penal Code § 1181. There are numerous grounds by which a defendant may pursue to successfully seek a new trial. In this article, Power Trial Lawyers California criminal appeals and trial attorneys provide a breakdown of California’s New Trial Motion laws, outline three examples and discuss best strategies to succeed in a Motion for a New Trial under California’s framework.California’s Motion for a New Trial—Penal Code § 1181
California Penal Code section 1181 sets forth the grounds for a motion for a new trial in criminal cases. The statute provides that a new trial may be granted if:
- There was an error of law occurring at the trial and objected to by the party making the application, which would have resulted in a different verdict or finding if the error had not occurred;
- The verdict or finding is against the law or evidence;
- The court received improper evidence before the verdict or finding and such evidence was material in the case;
- The jury received improper instructions from the court;
- New evidence has been discovered material to the case, which could not have been discovered before the verdict or finding by due diligence;
- The verdict or finding was the result of the court's misconduct;
- The jury was guilty of misconduct;
- The defendant was not present at the trial, unless it was his or her fault; and/or
- The defendant was insane at the time of trial, unless the court had already determined that the defendant was competent to stand trial.
It is important to note that a motion for a new trial must be made within a specified time frame after the verdict or finding is rendered, and the motion must be based on grounds that could not have been discovered before the verdict or finding was rendered. Generally, it is difficult to win a motion for a new trial, and a defendant comes to the court bearing a heavy burden. And because of the difficulty and particularity for success, consulting with an attorney is highly recommended.Case Studies People v. Torres (2020) 50 Cal.App.5th 207
In this case, the defendant was accused of assault with a deadly weapon. He argued on appeal that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the elements of the crime and that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. The court of appeals agreed and granted the defendant's motion for a new trial. The court found that the jury was improperly instructed on the elements of the offense, and that the evidence did not support a conviction under the correct standard. The court held that the error was prejudicial and may have resulted in a different outcome if properly instructed.
In this case in specific, the court found that the error was prejudicial, which is an important standard defendants may want to demonstrate if they are bring a new trial motion pursuant to CA Penal Code § 1181. Generally, if the defendant has been prejudiced due to a trial error, the court is more likely to grant a new trial, whereby the defendant is afforded due process of law.People v. Sanchez (2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 1050
In this case, the defendant was accused of first-degree murder. He argued on appeal that the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence and that the prosecutor committed misconduct during closing argument. The court of appeals agreed that the prosecutor committed misconduct by making improper statements during closing argument and that the misconduct was prejudicial. The court held that the prosecutor's statements were not based on the evidence and were intended to inflame the passions of the jury. Thus, the court granted the defendant's motion for a new trial.
In this case, the defendant was successful at demonstrating prejudice. However, this time, the prejudice was due to prosecutorial misconduct. Specifically, in the Sanchez case, the defendant was able to allege prosecutorial misconduct because the jury was influenced by statements that were not supported by the evidence allowed at trial. As such, to ensure Sanchez was guaranteed his due process rights, the court ruled in his favor by granting him a new trial.People v. Miranda (2019) 41 Cal.App.5th 613
In this case, the defendant was accused of second-degree murder. He argued on appeal that he discovered new evidence after trial that showed he did not have the mental state required for second-degree murder. The court of appeals agreed that the newly discovered evidence was material and could not have been discovered before the verdict or finding was rendered. The court held that the evidence, if presented at trial, would have likely resulted in a different outcome. Thus, the court granted the defendant's motion for a new trial.
In this case, there was newly discovered evidence. This is one of the most common grounds defendants are granted new trial motion. However, new evidence is not always available, and more importantly, if it is, the defendant has to have good cause why the evidence was not brought about before. In other words, the defendant has to have good grounds as to why the new evidence is “new” and could not have been discovered previously.
In each of these cases, the defendant was accused of a serious crime, including homicide or assault with a deadly weapon, and successfully pursued a motion for a new trial under Penal Code section 1181. These cases demonstrate the importance of having adequate legal representation and pursuing all available legal options to ensure that justice is served. Moreover, it takes skill and strong understanding of the evidence code and criminal procedure to succeed on a motion for a new trial. Therefore, consulting with a criminal appeals and trial lawyer is strongly recommended.A Top Criminal Appeals and Litigation Lawyer Can Help You
Penal Code section 1181 provides several grounds for a motion for a new trial in California criminal cases. These grounds include errors of law, insufficiency of the evidence, misconduct by the court or jury, and newly discovered evidence. Defendants who believe they have grounds for a motion for a new trial should seek the advice of experienced California criminal appeals and trial attorneys. At Power Trial Lawyers our lawyers have handled hundred of cases and have had success for many clients, even after a jury conviction. As demonstrated by the case studies above, a successful motion for a new trial can result in a reversal of a conviction or a reduction in sentence. However, such motions must be pursued within a specified time frame and must be based on grounds that could not have been discovered before the verdict or finding was rendered.
If you believe you have ground for a new trial and wish to bring a motion for a new trial, consult with a Power Trial Lawyers attorney today. You can call us at 213-800-7664 or you can submit a contact submission here.