About the Georgia Appeals Process

Navigate the Georgia appeals process with expert guidance. Understand steps, rights, and key details for a seamless legal journey.

Court of Appeals Georgia

If you find yourself engaged in a civil or criminal dispute, the first stage is to go to a trial court if such a dispute cannot be resolved out-of-court. After the trial, the judge or jury decides on the case, but the decision may not favor you.

At that point, you have two options. You can accept the decision and its consequences even though you believe it to be unfair or the result of an erroneous decision. Or you can appeal the decision in a superior court. In Georgia, most appeals go to the Georgia Court of Appeals, but appeals of capital cases go straight to the Georgia Supreme Court.

Appellate courts only sometimes overturn lower court decisions. An appellant must follow specific procedures and prove particular grounds for their appeal to be granted. Appellate procedural rules also require litigants to submit a notice of appeal to the trial court clerk within a specified period.

To be successful in the appeal process, you must be adequately informed and work with an appellate attorney in Atlanta with extensive appeal experience.

What Is an Appeal?

An appeal is an application to a higher court for the following:

  • A review of a lower court’s decision,
  • A determination on whether an error was committed,
  • And if so, overruling the lower court’s decision.

In other words, an appeal challenges the legal basis of the trial court’s ruling.

As opposed to many people’s understanding, appellate courts do not retry the case, take additional evidence, or hear witnesses. Instead, they review the trial court’s record. The record is the transcript of all documents, motions, pleadings, evidence, and testimony filed or presented in the trial court.

In some jurisdictions, like Georgia, it is possible to petition the Supreme Court from the intermediary court of appeals if you are still unsatisfied with the ruling in your case. However, the Supreme Court can choose to decide or decline your request.

Types of Appeals in Georgia

In Georgia, the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to hear civil and criminal cases from lower courts. However, only certain types of appeals are allowed. These appeals include:

  • Direct Appeals
  • Interlocutory Appeals
  • Discretionary Appeals

Let’s look at each type of appeal in more detail.

Direct Appeals

A direct appeal is an appeal that goes directly from the trial court to the appellate court. The court of appeals must hear these types of appeals, which are typically used in criminal cases where the defendant wants to challenge their conviction or sentence.

Interlocutory Appeal

Interlocutory appeals are those made before the trial court’s final decision. This type of appeal is usually allowed only in exceptional circumstances where a decision needs to be made before the conclusion of the case. Examples include orders for injunctions, declaratory judgments, or petitions regarding receivers.

Discretionary Appeals

Discretionary appeals are those that the Court of Appeals can choose to hear. Parties must file an application for a discretionary appeal in the Court of Appeals. While the court has discretion, it does not mean that the appeal will be automatically accepted. The party seeking the appeal must still provide a compelling reason for why their case should be heard.

How Does the Georgia Appeals Work?

Motion for New Trial

Your lawyer’s first option is to file a motion for a new trial within 30 days of the trial court’s ruling. This motion is filed in the trial court and allows the judge to consider any issues that might result in a successful appeal. It is not a mandatory step, and you can still appeal directly to the Court of Appeals in Atlanta and skip this step.

However, a motion for a new trial may be helpful if you hire a new lawyer for your appeal process who you think is more effective than your previous one. They might be able to convince the trial judge of the merits of your appeal and eliminate the need to go to a higher court.

Furthermore, a motion for a new trial provides the last opportunity to present new evidence (higher courts do not accept new evidence).

Notice of Appeal

If your motion for a new trial is denied or you do not want to file the motion, you can file a notice of appeal. It must be filed within 30 days after the denial of the initial motion or after a criminal conviction.

A direct appeal from the Georgia Court of Appeals can take a long time, partly because the lower court has to prepare a transcript of the trial proceedings and send it to the higher court along with other relevant documents. This process could take several months to conclude.

When the higher court receives the necessary documents, the appellant will submit their legal argument, or brief, within 20 days. The opposing side has 20 days after that to respond. The attorneys may also request an oral argument. This is not to introduce new evidence and is not a new trial but an opportunity for the lawyers to point out the legal issues with the previous decision.

Your lawyer may request an appeal bond if you file a motion for a new trial or notice of appeal. But for most serious crimes, like murder, a judge cannot grant an appeal bond.

 

Petition for Certiorari

If a direct appeal does not work, the next appellate court is the Supreme Court of Georgia. However, there is no automatic right to take a case to the Georgia Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court.

Your criminal appeals lawyer in Atlanta has to file a petition for Certiorari requesting permission from the highest court to file an appeal with them. If allowed, the case can proceed to the higher court. Otherwise, the direct appeal is concluded, but habeas corpus may still be an option.

 

Habeas Corpus Petition

Where a convicted person is in custody, a habeas petition must be filed in the county where they are being held, not where the trial was held. This is usually the next option after going to the appellate courts, where direct appeals were unsuccessful.

Here, you can challenge any constitutional errors that occurred during the trial. Upon a successful habeas corpus petition, the case will return to the original county for a new trial.

 

Extraordinary Motion for New Trial 

In an extraordinary motion for a new trial, a defendant has the right to challenge the conviction based on new evidence uncovered after the sentence has been entered. A motion based on newly discovered evidence must meet specific criteria:

  • Since the trial, the defendant has become aware of newly discovered evidence.
  • A lack of due diligence did not cause the evidence not to be acquired sooner.
  • This evidence was so substantial that it probably would have resulted in a different verdict.
  • It is not cumulative because it does not confirm what has already been established by similar evidence on a similar issue.
  • The procurement of the affidavit or witness or explanation of its absence.
  • The new evidence does not solely impeach a witness’s credibility.

What Is Discretionary Appeal?

In addition to interlocutory appeals, Georgia allows discretionary appeals. A discretionary appeal is an appeal from a decision of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals that is not binding on the lower courts. It is discretionary because the higher court can decide whether to accept or reject it, depending on its merits and circumstances.

How Long Does an Appeal Take in Georgia, and What Are the Chances of Winning?

An appeal could take anywhere between six months to many years from filing the notice of appeal until the case is resolved. The final judgment of the appeals court is final and cannot be appealed any further.

The chance of success depends on the facts of the case, the quality of preparation and argument, and even luck. Every appeals process will be different from case to case. The trial court orders are presumed to be correct, and it will take convincing arguments from the appellant’s side to convince the court that an error occurred.

Your attorney’s experience, knowledge of the law, and ability to present a compelling argument are essential for any successful appeal. Be sure to choose an experienced criminal appeals attorney with a track record of success in such cases.

Why You Need a Georgia Appeals Lawyer

For your appeals court case to succeed, your lawyer must identify and present your most critical legal issues. Your lawyer should make a compelling case for why your appeal should be granted.

A seasoned and experienced appellate attorney will maximize your chance of success. Hiring someone with a track record of success in appeal cases is in your best interest. Reach out to Appellate attorney Tyler Conklin at Conklin Law today!

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