You may have heard about appealing a legal matter, but few people completely understand how the process works. The appellate process is not automatic and is not always available. If your case is eligible for an appeal, it means you have another opportunity for a judge to rule on the issue.
The point of this process is to protect people from the government. The appellate process is a right you may have, and you should request an appeal if you can. A losing party may appeal both criminal and civil court decisions.
It requires a different set of skills to appeal a case than a trial lawyer may possess. The rules of the appellate court tend to be more technical than those applied during a trial. Because of the complexity of an appeal, you may find the services of a Fredericksburg appeals lawyer invaluable.
Even if you had the help of an attorney during a lower court decision, that attorney might not possess the knowledge and understanding of the appellate process to protect your interests adequately.
A judge may hear a case in the General District Court or the Circuit Court. Typically, the General District Court decides smaller matters such as traffic tickets and misdemeanors. If a defendant appeals a case from the General District Court, the Circuit Court will hear the case “de novo,” which means the judge will not take into consideration the lower court decision and look at the situation with fresh eyes.
More complex criminal matters go straight to the Circuit Court. These tend to be felonies where a defendant may be at risk for a one-year sentence up to life in prison. If a defendant wishes to appeal a decision, the Court of Appeals will decide the matter.
The court does not automatically set cases for appeal, except in the most severe cases. Otherwise, a defendant is responsible for following the rules of the appellate court. If the defendant correctly makes the petition for an appeal, the Court of Appeals will allow the defendant to argue before it.
There are some stark differences between appellate practice and trials. Unlike lower level courts which only have one judge presiding over an issue, the appellate court may have one to three judges deciding the matter without a jury. The parties submit legal documents outlining the pertinent questions. Usually, the court will not consider new evidence. Instead, the parties argue over the application of the law.
A defendant may only appeal a final decision by the lower court. So if a court finds the defendant guilty, the defendant can request an appeal. Once the judge rules on bail, the arrested person could appeal that decision as well.
The losing party may request a second appeal if the first one does not go the way the appellant hoped. A person can petition the Supreme Court to consider the matter. Typically, the Supreme Court only accepts cases that present a new legal issue, or the lower courts have different opinions on a legal subject.
If you need to file an appeal, you may want to schedule an appointment with an attorney who understands the complex appellate rules. Not all lawyers have the skills necessary to run an appellate case successfully.
Even if you received an unfavorable outcome at trial does not mean you should give up hope. Speak with a Fredericksburg appeals lawyer to learn more about your options and whether an appeal is possible for you.
Patrick Woolley Attorney At Law