The Basics of a Criminal Appeals Process

There are a number of options for requesting supplementary relief from the criminal justice system for an individual who has been convicted of a crime. AN appeal to have the criminal conviction overturned or maybe have the sentence reduced can be filed. Here is a brief explanation of the criminal appeals process.

What Is a Criminal Appeal?

A New York Criminal appeal is basically when the courts activities during a trial are reviewed in search of any legal errors which may have occurred. Only the “record” of the lower court’s proceedings are reviewed by the appellate court, new evidence is not taken into consideration. The contents of the record being reviewed include the transcripts delivered by the court’s reporter of the statements made by the ruling judge, the attorneys as well as the witnesses. Any objects or documents that were entered into evidence are also included in the record.

The party that is appealing will be required to file a “brief” which is a written explanation explaining the errors they are claiming to appeal. Generally, a brief rebutting the appeal is filed by the opposition and in the rebuttal, it is requested that the conviction, as well as the sentence, be upheld. Typically a response brief is permitted and in many cases, the court will allow oral arguments from both sides before making a final decision.

Is It Possible To Win An Appeal?

It can be very difficult to win an appeal. During a trial, it is the prosecution’s responsibility to prove their case beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt. When appealing it is the defendant’s responsibility to prove that not only was a mistake made but that that mistake was indeed a serious one. If an error does not affect substantial rights it is considered harmless and therefore disregarded.criminal-appeals-attorney

Other than having to deal with proving error the defendant has to deal with the fact that appeals courts are generally very deferential of the findings in the lower courts. Unless errors or misjudgments are egregious, they reason that during the actual trial and testimony the judge and jury were in fact present and therefore they grant their opinions authority.

The reversal of the conviction is a possible outcome if the appeal is successful. This is a very rare occurrence, there are however times when highly egregious errors are found and presumed to be harmful, errors such as coerced confessions and if they are brought to light and proven a reversal may occur.

An appeals court is even more reluctant to actually overturn the sentencing decisions. If the sentence, however, falls outside of the strict legal guidelines then a significant exception is made. Many times if that is the case the appellate court may consider sending the case back to trial court where it can be re-sentenced abiding within the proper parameters.

There are many ins and outs to a criminal appeals process and having a knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy criminal law attorney is the best way to ensure that you or someone you love has a fair chance of having their criminal case appealed and possibly overturned.