What Is a Criminal Appeal?
What is a criminal appeal? Learn more about the process of filing a criminal appeal to review the lower court’s decision in Georgia and how we can help.
What Does Criminal Appeal Involve?
A criminal appeal involves a defendant’s request to the appellate court (higher court) to review the lower court’s decision after the criminal conviction.
Under Georgia law, the person convicted can appeal their conviction. To be successful on appeal, the criminal defendant may demonstrate that the trial proceeding did not comply with the law or that their rights were violated.
If the appellate court grants the defendant an appeal, the lower court’s decision may be reversed wholly or in some parts. However, if the appellate court denies the appeal, the trial court’s ruling stands.
The criminal appeals process is often more accessible and less complicated if you have the help of an appellate attorney. At Conklin Law, we practice criminal appeals and can help you navigate the process throughout Georgia.
What Are the Most Common Grounds for Criminal Appeal?
The appeal process begins with the filing of a notice of appeal. Essentially, the notice of appeal is the document filed with the superior court where the case was decided to inform the court and the other side of the appeal.
Criminal convictions are typically appealed on the following grounds:
Improper Admission or Exclusion of Evidence
A pretrial conference is often held between the judge and lawyers to discuss the case, including what evidence and witnesses should be presented to the jury. At that hearing, the judge may rule on whether the jury can hear certain evidence.
Lack of Sufficient Evidence
On appeal, a defendant may argue that the prosecution failed to present enough evidence to warrant a conviction.
However, once the jury returns a guilty verdict, it will be upheld on the sufficiency of the evidence grounds if reasonable inferences suggest the defendant’s guilt. Moreover, any conflicts in witness testimony or other evidence are resolved against the defendant on appeal.
Ineffective Assistance by Counsel
Poor representation by the defendant’s lawyer could provide a basis for an appeal. To win ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendant may show the following:
- Their lawyer made a decision that no reasonable attorney would have made.
- If the decision by the lawyer had not occurred, there is a reasonable probability the outcome of the case would have been different. This is a very high standard to meet.
The Prosecutor or Jury Misconduct
In some cases, a prosecutor’s unethical conduct creates prejudice, which is an appropriate ground for a criminal appeal. Additionally, jury misconduct and any other prejudicial legal error concerning the trial are grounds for appeal.
What’s the Process of Criminal Appeal Review?
Below is the criminal appellate review procedure after filing a criminal appeal in Atlanta.
The defendant may file the appeal within 30 days of sentencing. The original trial records are then prepared and sent to the appellate court. After receipt of the records, the appellate court reviews the lower court proceedings to render its decision.
The records the appellate court may review are:
- Pretrial motions
- Posttrial motions
- Trial transcripts
- All other evidence that was presented in court
The court also reviews the written briefs submitted by each party.
In some cases, the appellate court hears oral arguments. At oral argument, each side’s attorney is allowed to present its case to the judges, and the judges will often ask questions to clarify a party’s arguments. After hearing oral arguments, the criminal justice system usually takes several months to issue a decision.
What is the Timeline for a Criminal Appeal?
The timeline for a criminal appeal varies depending on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the case, but there are generally several key stages.
First, the appellant, usually through their attorney, may file a notice of appeal. This step is often required within a few weeks to a few months after the conviction or sentence, depending on state or federal rules. This initiates the appeal process.
Next, both parties prepare and submit briefs. The appellant’s brief argues that legal errors occurred during the trial, such as incorrect jury instructions or that the verdict was based on insufficient evidence to support a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. The appellee’s brief argues for upholding the conviction.
The appellant might claim the discovery of new evidence not available at the time of the trial. However, presenting new evidence on appeal is rare and often restricted by rules of appellate procedure.
After briefs are submitted, the appellate court reviews the case. This process can take several months or even over a year, depending on the court’s schedule and the case’s complexity.
Finally, the court will issue a decision. If the appeal is successful, the case may be remanded for a new trial, or the appellant could be acquitted. If unsuccessful, the conviction stands, and further appeal options may be explored.
A criminal appeal is a complex process where having an experienced legal representation is highly advisable for effective arguments of the appellant.
What if One Loses an Appeal?
Denial of an appeal at the Georgia Court of Appeals does not necessarily mean that the appeal process has ended. In Georgia, a petition known as a “cert” may be filed in the Georgia Supreme Court.
A cert petition is an application to the highest court in the state requesting that the justices accept the case for review. The Georgia Supreme Court only accepts cert petitions in cases of great gravity or importance to the public.
If an appeal is unsuccessful, a defendant may file a habeas corpus petition within four years. In a habeas proceeding, the petitioner may only raise constitutional errors that occurred in their case. Habeas is a civil proceeding and is not part of a criminal appeal. It is heard in the county where the inmate is incarcerated.
What Happens if an Appeal is Granted?
Usually, when the appellate court grants the appeal, three things can happen:
Remand the case to the trial court with instructions to the judge requesting more information about a particular ruling. Normally this occurs when the trial judge may have committed legal error in a ruling, but the appellate court cannot tell because the record is unclear.
A new trial. A new trial is ordered if the appeals court overturns one or more convictions.
Return the case to the trial court for resentencing. If the trial court sentenced the defendant to an unlawful sentence, they would be entitled to a resentencing hearing.
How Can Conklin Law Help to File a Criminal Case?
A conviction does not mean the end of the case. Defendant has a right to appeal their case, which may result in them regaining their freedom.
An appellate lawyer researches and analyzes the trial after one is convicted. This thorough analysis is critical because, on appeal, the defendant may prove legal errors occurred at trial to obtain relief.
Those seeking relief from the appellate courts can utilize the legal services of a criminal appeals lawyer in Atlanta from Conkin Law. Conklin criminal appeals attorneys have extensive experience with appeals and can help you navigate the process. The skilled attorneys at Conklin Law know how to prepare persuasive briefs and oral arguments for their clients. We can help you achieve the outcome you seek.
If you are convicted and want to know more about criminal appeals, contact Conklin Law for a free consultation. We will review your case and discuss the legal options available to you. Our dedicated trial lawyers will ensure your rights are protected and your voice is heard.