Criminal Defense Appeals

An individual who has been convicted of a crime may "appeal" his or her case, asking a higher court to review certain aspects of the case for legal error, as to either the conviction itself or the sentence imposed.

In an appeal, the defendant argues that, based on key legal mistakes which affected the jury's decision and/or the sentence imposed, the case should be dismissed or the appellant should be re-tried or re-sentenced.

In considering an appeal, the court reviewing the case looks only at the "record" of the proceedings in the lower court and does not consider any new evidence. The record i0 cs made up of the court reporter's transcripts of everything said in court, whether by the judge, the attorneys, or witnesses. Anything else admitted into evidence, such as documents or objects, also becomes part of the record.

In reaching a decision on the appeal, the higher court ("appellate court") looks to this record and to the written "briefs" filed by both sides of the appeal. For example, an appellant challenging a conviction or sentence files an opening brief, arguing how and why the conviction or sentence was legally incorrect.

Appellate court

In turn, the government files its own brief to illustrate why the conviction or sentence should be upheld. The defendant typically has an opportunity to file a second brief in response to the government's position, and the appellate court may hear oral arguments from each side before reaching a decision on the appeal.

At both the state and federal court levels, there are many options for obtaining relief after a criminal conviction or sentence. It may take a number of months for an appeal to be heard and decided, most states require a defendant to notify the courts and the government of the intent to appeal very soon after a conviction or sentence.

Appeals are one of many Post Conviction options for a defendant. Other options include: Apprendi Case, Changes of Plea, Motion for a New Trial, Plea Withdrawals, Post-Conviction Motion, Sentence Appeals, Sentence Modifications, Sentence Reversals, Writs of Certiorari, Writs of Habeus Corpus, Writs of Mandamus.

The statement above is not legal advice! This statement is not intended to be a correct statement of law in your jurisdiction. This statement is intended to give you a very general understanding of what is involved in this type of crime. Please consult an attorney to find out what law applies in your jurisdiction.