What Are Your Appeal Options?
You may think that once a final ruling is made in your case, the case is over. However, you may have options even after a conviction.
There is the possibility that the conviction may be challenged and overturned on appeal. After a final ruling or determination in your case, your attorney can help you exhaust the appeals process.
An appeal may not be the best way to move forward with your case, so you will want to discuss this possibility first with an experienced criminal defense attorney with appellate experience.
Types of Appeals
Appeals Attorney John Calcagni Has Experience with Appeals in Both Civilian and Military Courts.
Attorney John L. Calcagni III will use his experience with the appeals process to help you overturn the ruling or conviction in your case, if possible.
If you have experienced a negative final ruling or conviction in your case
Contact Calcagni Law today to discuss your case and whether or not an appeal is right for you.
What is an Appeal?
An appeal is a request to a high court to review a decision of a lower court.
The criminal justice system, including state, federal and military systems, is comprised of two types of courts:
- Trial Courts; and
- Appeals or Appellate Courts.
Trial courts are where determinations of fact are made. Trial court is where a defendant is arraigned, conducts discovery, files motions and either resolves the case with a pretrial disposition (by pleading guilty) or proceeds to trial. Appeals courts review decisions of trial courts. Defendants in the criminal justice system have a number of rights afforded to them by law. If a defendant feels that a trial court rendered an adverse decision in violation of his or her rights, the defendant may file an appeal.
Appeals or Appellate Courts
Appellate courts review actions of a trial court for legal error. These appeals courts function as a check and balance on trial courts to ensure the participants of a trial, to include the judge, attorneys and jurors, act in compliance with the law and their respective duties under the law. Where a party is aggrieved by an adverse trial court decision, he or she may file an appeal. Appeals must be filed in the appellate court that reviews decisions of the particular trial court from which the appealing party seeks relief. The party who files an appeal is called the appellant. The party who responds to or defends against the appeal is called the appellee.
Who Files the Appeal and Why?
In most circumstances, a criminal defendant is the party filing an appeal.
The majority of appeals challenge guilty verdicts after trial, adverse motions rulings by a trial judge and the reasonableness of sentences imposed. There are various other grounds for filing an appeal, but these are the main bases or reasons to file an appeal.
When Is the Appeal Filed?
An appeal may be filed either during the pretrial phase of a case or after the case concludes with either a trial verdict or a guilty plea.
Appeals filed while a case is pending in trial court are known as interlocutory appeals. These appeals most often seek to challenge pretrial rulings of the trial court, normally in connection with motions. Depending on the jurisdiction, the defendant and/or the prosecution may file an interlocutory appeal. This right is not available to defendants in all jurisdictions.
Appeals filed after a case concludes are by defendants aggrieved from a trial court decision, normally for being found guilty after trial
A defendant who loses at trial may appeal the guilty verdict by claiming that harmful errors occurred during trial that adversely impacted his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel or to a fair trial.
If a defendant wins his case by acquittal or a finding of not guilty after trial, there is no right to or grounds for an appeal. The government also cannot appeal a defendant’s acquittal or finding of not guilty.
Filing an Appeal Involves Two Main Steps
- Written Submissions; and
- Oral Argument.
When an appeal is first filed, the appealing party (appellant) files a document with the court known as an appellate brief. Appellant’s brief outlines the legal grounds and arguments in support of why relief should be allowed on appeal.
The responding or defending party (appellee) then files its brief, typically in response to the claims and arguments raised in the appellant’s brief. The appealing party is then given the last word with the option to file a response called the reply brief. Each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding written submissions.
Once the appeals court has had an opportunity to review the parties’ written submissions, the case may be scheduled for oral argument. Each jurisdiction has its own rules regarding the length and manner of oral arguments.
Appeals courts are very different from trial courts. The parties do not appear before a jury, like in trial court, to re-argue the case. Rather, they appear before a panel of judges who must vote by majority to uphold the lower court decision, overturn or reverse the decision or send the case back to the trial court for additional findings of fact.
The panel may consist of between three and nine appellate judges. The number of judges siting on the panel varies by court and jurisdiction (state, federal or military) where the appeal is filed. These judges first review the parties’ written briefs and then hear oral arguments.
Regarding oral arguments, the parties appear before the appellate panel to argue the points of law contained in their written submissions. The parties are afforded a limited amount of time for argument, which varies by court and jurisdiction. During oral argument, the lawyers for the parties make oral remarks and presentations, as well as respond to or answer questions posed to them by the appellate judges sitting on the panel.
After oral arguments conclude, the appellate court later issues a written decision known as a legal opinion, regarding the appeal. These opinions may be published or unpublished.
Published Appellate Decisions
Published appellate decisions become part of the large body of law known as case law, which becomes the law of the land. This means they become controlling and binding on lower courts within the jurisdiction.
Unpublished Appellate Decisions
Unpublished appellate decisions have no binding effect, but can be used as persuasive authority in other cases. If a party is dissatisfied with the decision on appeal, it may file for further appellate relief to a higher appellate court within the jurisdiction, where such a higher authority exists. Some jurisdictions have various levels of appeals courts thereby permitting further requests for appellate relief to a higher authority.
Other jurisdictions do not. Whatever the case may be, once the highest appeals court within the jurisdiction renders a decision on the appeal, the decision becomes final.