What Does It Mean if An Appellate Court Upholds a Verdict?

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What Does It Mean to Uphold a Verdict On Appeal?

When appealing a trial court’s decision to a Court of Appeals, people hope for a new trial, a lower sentence, or even an acquittal. However, appellate courts sometimes decide to uphold the lower court’s verdict instead.

When an appellate court upholds a verdict, it has ruled against the appellant and affirmed the lower court’s decision. Before making such a decision, appellate judges review the case’s trial record for errors of law, errors of fact, or procedural errors that may have affected the judge or jury verdict. In the absence of such errors, appellate judges may deny the appeal and affirm the original judgment.

Unless the losing party decides to appeal the appellate court’s decision to the state Supreme Court, they have to serve their sentence as ordered by the trial court.

What to Do When Your Appeal Is Denied?

Georgia has two appellate courts. The Georgia Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court that hears most appeals from state trial courts. When the Court of Appeals returns an unfavorable decision, appellants may take their cases to Georgia’s court of last resort, the Supreme Court.

Therefore, if the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled against you, your next step is the Supreme Court. Your lawyer will draft and file a petition for certiorari with the court, asking its permission to appeal. But it’s worth noting that, unlike the intermediate appellate court, the Supreme Court is not required to hear your case or grant your petition. In fact, only very few cases are heard by the Supreme Court of Georgia each year. As of the time of writing, the Supreme Court has denied over 300 petitions and only granted 25 between January and September 2023.

According to the local rules of the Supreme Court of Georgia, your case must raise a question of significant importance or concern for the public in order to qualify for a review on certiorari. 

In case of a denial of your petition for certiorari, your last resort is a habeas corpus. A writ of habeas corpus is used by those in jail, prison, or are under probation to challenge the legality of their incarceration. In order to be granted a writ of habeas corpus, your attorney must show that constitutional errors were committed during your original trial that warrant a new trial.

Tyler Conklin from Conklin Law has successfully pleaded before Georgia’s two appellate courts and obtained significant results.

What Are the Grounds for Appeal?

It is vital to note that dissatisfaction with a verdict alone does not give you the right to appeal it. For an appeals court to grant your appeal, you must show that there have been serious errors that impacted the trial’s outcome. Such errors are referred to as grounds for appeal, and they include:

  • Errors in the application or interpretation of the law

  • Errors in the material facts of the case

  • Abuse of discretion by the judge

  • Insufficient evidence

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel

  • Violations of constitutional rights

  • Jury misconduct

  • Prosecutorial misconduct

Your appeals lawyer will scrutinize your case to determine if you have any valid grounds for appeal. Keep in mind that an appeal is not possible to admit new evidence on appeal. However, by proving that serious errors occurred during the trial, you may be granted a new trial where new evidence can be introduced.

How Do Appeals Work in Georgia?

According to OCGA §5-6-33, appeals can be filed by the defendant in a criminal case or either party in a civil case. Regardless, the appeals process is the same, and it usually involves:

  1. You or your attorney initiates the appeals process by filing a notice of appeal with the trial court where your case was adjudicated.
  2. Your lawyer drafts and files a written brief with the Georgia Court of Appeals within the set timeframe. Failure to submit the brief and the other required documents may lead to the denial of your appeal unless a late submission is justified and authorized.
  3. The other party files an opposing brief.
  4. The appellate court may make a decision based on the written briefs only. However, both parties may be summoned for an oral argument. During the oral argument, each party will be allocated some time to make its case and answer the appellate judges’ questions.
  5. The appellate judges review your case and determine whether there were significant errors and, if there are, whether they have affected the trial’s outcome.

If you were convicted in a federal court in Georgia, your appeal must be filed with the 11th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The process may be slightly different, and different court rules apply.

What Are the Possible Outcomes of an Appellate Review?

Depending on the results of their review, appellate judges may uphold, reverse, remand, or modify the lower court’s decision.

  • Uphold: Upholding the lower court’s decision means affirming it and denying your appeal.

  • Reverse: When the appellate court reverses the trial court’s decision, it agrees that grave errors were made and vacates it. A reversal is the best outcome you could obtain from an appeal.

  • Remand: Remanding the original judgment means sending the case back for a new trial.

  • Modify: When only a part or some parts of the decision are determined to be erroneous, the appellate court may modify it. For example, when a sentence is found to be excessively high, the court of appeals may lower it.

Conklin Law is Here for You

Was your appeal denied by the Georgia Court of Appeals? There may still be hope for you. At Conklin Law, we have consistently obtained favorable outcomes from the Supreme Court of Georgia and are well-familiar with the ins and outs of the appeals system. Don’t just take our word for it; our case results speak for our dedication and experience.

Contact us now and schedule your free consultation. We may be able to get you the relief you deserve.

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