When a case is vacated under the law it means that a superior court has voided the decision of a lower court and either released the defendant as innocent or sent the case back to the lower court to be reheard either in full or in part. Technically speaking, any case can possibly be vacated if it is heard by an appeals court. Appeals courts are very stringent in their guidelines when it comes to vacating a case. They will only do so under specific circumstances.

Circumstances That May Cause a Case to be Vacated

The first step to getting a case vacated will be to get that case appealed. Generally, an appellate court makes the determination. Most cases can be appealed, but the appeal will only be successful if the appellant and their attorney can prove that the previous court made some sort of legal error in deciding the case. There are myriad legal errors that could be made in a case. Common errors include incorrect jury instructions, improper procedure when it comes to acquiring or submitting evidence, errors in sentencing, juror or prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective legal counsel on behalf of the defendant. It is worthwhile to note that while errors in submitting current evidence is often a grounds for appeal, the sudden discovery of new evidence after the fact rarely is. Many courts are reluctant to hear an appeal on the sole grounds of new evidence not provided in the original trial.

It is also possible to have an appeal based on factual rather than legal grounds. This is much rarer, however. Most appeals courts will not hear a case based solely on a factual error unless it is very plain to see because the jury is ultimately responsible for determining fact. Appealing on such grounds would be the same as invalidating the authority of the jury.

Possible Outcomes of a Vacated Case

If the appeals court does vacate the case, they can do so in part or in full. If they vacate the case in full, then they send the entire case back to the original court to be heard again. This usually happens if the errors in the case were so numerous or severe that the entire case was compromised. Often, the court will vacate the case in part. This means that only a specific part of the trial was compromised by an error. The appellate court will instruct that only that part of the case be reheard. This rehearing may or may not change the verdict.

The superior court also has the authority to dismiss the case entirely. The defendant is then free to go.

Contact us today to get started on your case and see if you’re eligible to have your charges vacated.