Criminal Law

Criminal Law Appeals - Procedure

Most defendants have appeal rights if they're convicted. Appellate courts each have rules controlling the appellate process. These rules are firm, and cover steps in the appeal and time limits. Appellate courts usually aren't forgiving and flexible if you don't follow the rules.

Basic appeal procedures include filing the notice of appeal, ordering transcripts, filing briefs and assembling an appendix for other documents. Failing to follow the rules can result in appeal dismissal.

The Notice of Appeal

The notice of appeal is the document you file to get the appeal started. You have to file it within 10 days of the conviction. A trial court's judgment in a criminal case isn't final until the sentence is given and put in the court's docket. When you want to appeal an issue besides the conviction, then the appeal must be filed within 10 days of the ruling on that issue. You can ask for more time to file an appeal.

Filing the notice of appeal is a crucial step in the appeal process because takes the case out of the trial court's authority or jurisdiction.

Ordering the Transcript

The appellate record consists of the trial court transcript, the original pleadings and exhibits and the docket entries. The record is what the parties and appellate court look at on appeal. Within 10 days after filing the notice of appeal, the appealing party (appellant) must order the needed parts of the trial transcript from the court reporter and pay for it. If the entire transcript wasn't ordered, the non-appealing party (appellee) can require the appellant to order the rest of it. The record is then assembled and sent to the appellate court.

Filing Briefs

The appellant writes a brief containing a summary of the facts and issues and an argument of why the lower court was wrong. The appellant's brief must be filed within 40 days after the record was filed. The appellee can write a response brief; it's filed within 30 days after the appellant's brief is served or delivered. The appellant can file a reply to the reply brief within 14 days after the service of the appellee's brief.

Assembling the Appendix

The appellant must file an appendix to the brief containing the following:

  • All relevant docket entries
  • Relevant portions of the pleadings
  • The charge(s)
  • The findings or opinion
  • The final order or decision and
  • Any parts of the record that may be referred to in the arguments

Any part of the record that is important to the appeal should be referenced in the appendix. The appendix needs a table of contents describing each item. Organizing the appendix for easy use by the appellate court is important. 

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How much appeals experience do you have and have you ever won an appeal?
  • How much do transcripts cost?
  • What standards or rules does the appellate court use in reviewing a case?
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