If you have been convicted of a crime in a court of law, whether in a jury trial or bench trial in which the judge determines the accused’s fate, you are not legally required to accept the court’s finding of guilt: Your attorney can file an appeal, meaning that you choose to appeal the conviction and request a new trial.
If you chose to plead guilty opposed to having a trial, known as pleading no contest, the judgment against you cannot be appealed. Instead, your attorney can file a motion on your behalf to have your plea withdrawn. Compared to the appeals process, the withdraw process is quite different. Formally known as “writ of habeas corpus,” oftentimes this indicates that, at the time of entering a guilty plea, you were unaware of various issues.
Because the appeals process is state-specific, there is a unique process for the federal court. Either way, your attorney is usually required to file the one to two-page notice of appeal within 30 days of your conviction. Once sent to the court where your judgment was entered, the appeal serves as official notification that you are challenging its ruling. It also stipulates that you are taking the matter before the next highest court with jurisdiction.
Your attorney will also file the notice of appeal with the appellate court, indicating that the decision made by the lower court was incorrect. Included with this is an appellate brief, which is a legal discussion covering specific cases and/or different points relating to your case. The goal with an appeal is to point out mistakes, such as the jury being given wrong instructions or that not all evidence was properly considered. Simply put, the argument is that evidence presented to the jury or judge was not sufficient for you to have been found guilty.
In addition to being charged a fee to file a notice of appeal, the record of your first case must be cited. If you do not have enough money to get a transcript of the record, the court will find you to be indigent, at which time the court clerk will provide a free copy; otherwise, your attorney can step in to get the document and pay the fee.
Typically, a panel of three judges reviews appellate cases. While you do not have to appear, an oral argument case can be set by the court that gives your attorney the opportunity to argue in person on your behalf. There are three actions for appeals cases, including vacate, affirm, and modify.
If the panel of judges agrees that you should not have been found guilty, your cases is vacated, meaning your lower court conviction is overturned, entitling you to a new trial. If the judges feel that you are guilty, your conviction stands as is. If the judges feel you are partially correct, the judgment is modified, which usually voids the fine, but not the remainder of the conviction.
The appeals process is quite complex. For that reason, you want to hire an experienced criminal appellate attorney who specializes in the appeals process for convictions.