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Understanding the Appeals Process in Florida

Appeal

In 2016 there were over 700,000 arrests for alleged crimes across the state of Florida. While many of these individuals were let go or ultimately acquitted, a large percentage of these were convicted of the crimes they were arrested for. A criminal conviction of any crime is felt as a crushing blow, however it is important to understand that this is not the end of your legal battle. An individual who has been convicted of a crime has several options as they move forward seeking potential release. Among these options is filing for an appeal, which can result in a reduction in the individual’s sentence or a potential overturning of the criminal conviction.

The purpose of an appeal is to review the trial court’s activities and decisions for any legal error that may have occurred. The appeal occurs at the “appellate court” and this court does not consider the addition of any new evidence. Your lawyer will file a brief explaining the errors they believe occurred at the trial court level, and following the submission of the brief, the opposing party may file a brief responding to the arguments and arguing that the initial criminal conviction should stand. After this occurs, your lawyer may submit a reply brief on your behalf and it is possible that oral arguments will occur.

During appeals process the judge will be looking to see if any harmful legal error occurred at the trial court. This is defined as any action that ultimately affected the outcome of your case. The caveat is that the only way a potential error can be considered is if it was recorded as an objection during the trial.

Trial vs. Appeal 

An appeal is often considered more difficult than the trial phase of the criminal justice process. During the trial it is up the prosecutor to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Alternatively, during an appeal the defendant must prove that a serious error was made. In certain instances an error may be identified but then disregarded as harmless if it did not seriously affect the case.

Types of Appellate Courts in Florida

In the state of Florida there are three main levels of appellate courts. The courts vary in the types of cases they hear and they are as follows:

  • Circuit Court: Handles appeals for misdemeanors and traffic violations;
  • District Court: Handles appeals for juvenile cases and felony convictions;
  • Florida Supreme Court: Handles death penalty cases.

In the event that an appeals court identifies an error has occurred then the appellate judge will write a brief detailing the issue that occurred and providing the lower court with instructions on what to do next.

Contact Us for Professional Assistance with Your Case

If the outcome of your criminal trial was not in your favor, you need to remember that your case is not over, you have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. In order to best increase your chances of success on appeal it is wise that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer to advocate on your behalf. At the Baez Law Firm we understand the severity of situation you are facing and have the knowledge and expertise to develop an effective appellate strategy. If you are in need of assistance give us a call at 305-999-5100 for a free consultation.

Resources:

fdle.state.fl.us/cms/FSAC/Documents/PDF/arr_cnty16.aspx

floridasupremecourt.org/jury_instructions/chapters/chapter3/p1c3s3.7.rtf

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