What is an insufficient evidence argument in a criminal appeal?

One option that is always available in criminal appeals arising after trials is to argue that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. Through a sufficiency of the evidence argument, an appeals attorney will assert that the evidence at trial was insufficient to convict the defendant because the prosecution did not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, every elements of the charges.

Standard of Review

Americans have a constitutional right to be free from conviction except on proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on EVERY essential element of the charged crime. People v. Noland, 739 P.2d 906, 907 (Colo. App. 1987). This constitutional right is expressed in both state constitutions and the US federal constitution. In considering the sufficiency of the evidence against a defendant, the appellate court will ask this question. Is the evidence, both direct and circumstantial, when viewed as a whole and in a light most favorable to the People both substantial and sufficient to support a conclusion by a reasonable person that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt? Id.

Preserving an Sufficiency of the Evidence Argument at Trial

An insufficient evidence argument must be preserved at the trial court level in order to be argued on appeal. This is most often accomplished by the trial lawyer moving for a judgment of acquittal following the close of the prosecution’s evidence. See, for example, People v. Miranda, 410 P.3d 520, 534 (Colo. App. 2014).

Remedy for a Successful Insufficient Evidence Claim

Where the court of appeals finds there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction, the court will vacate the conviction and remand the case to the trial court for a judgment of acquittal. People v. Heywood, 2014 COA 99, ¶¶ 39-40, 357 P.3d 201 (Colo. App. 2014). An acquittal after a successful insufficient evidence argument prevents the defendant for being retried in the same court for the same crimes.

For More Information and Help With Your Insufficient Evidence Claim

Please feel free to contact the Alderman Law Firm if you have a Colorado, Wisconsin, or Federal (4th, 6th, 7th, or 10th Circuits) criminal appeal that you’d like to discuss further.

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