Appealing a Criminal Conviction
If you have been tried and convicted of a crime, you are not yet at the end of the road. The next step for you is to appeal your conviction to a higher court, known as an appellate court. In Florida, there are five District Courts of Appeal that hear these cases. In an appeal, your lawyer argues that mistakes made at your trial resulted in an improper verdict or sentence. You may be awarded a new trial, or have your conviction overturned altogether.
What orders can be appealed?
In Florida, appeals are governed by Chapter 924 of the criminal procedure code. (See Fla. Stat. §924.02 et seq.) This chapter establishes the ground rules for an appeal as a matter of right. An appeal as a matter of right is one that the appellate court must hear. In contrast, a discretionary appeal is one the higher court can refuse to consider. As a general rule, you can only appeal from an actual conviction, and not from a guilty plea or a plea of nolo contendere, unless you have expressly reserved your right to appeal when you made your plea. In addition to appealing a conviction, you may also appeal:
- an order granting probation;
- an order revoking probation; and
- a sentence.
Typically, the appellate court will not hear evidence, unlike the trial court. Instead, the appellate court reviews the record of the evidence at trial, and briefs (legal arguments) submitted by the lawyers for both sides.
Grounds for appeal
There are two basic grounds for appeal:
- The trial court committed plain error, which is a legal mistake affecting a defendant’s substantial rights; or
- The weight of the evidence at trial does not support the verdict.
In order for you to raise an issue on appeal, it must have been “preserved” in the trial court. This means that the trial court must have had the chance to rule on the issue. If a particular issue was not raised in the trial court, it can only support an appeal if it would constitute fundamental error.
Examples of legal errors
The following are examples of the kinds of errors of law that might have occurred during a trial:
- violation of the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures;
- search warrant defects;
- statements or confessions obtained in violation of constitutional rights;
- violation of the right to a speedy trial;
- evidence improperly admitted;
- juror misconduct or fraud; or
- prosecutorial misconduct.
Errors made at trial are not always obvious. It is essential to have qualified appellate counsel review the entire record from your trial to determine whether there are errors that would support an appeal.
At an appeal’s conclusion, the appellate court can do a number of things:
- affirm the conviction;
- reverse or modify the conviction;
- modify a sentence; or
- order a new trial.
Consult a Miami and Orlando appellate lawyer
A conviction does not mean you must stop fighting the charges against you. On the contrary, the skilled Miami appellate lawyers of The Baez Law Firm are available to help you take the next step. We have a large network of lawyers who focus on appeals nationwide, and the resources to provide you with the best appellate team. Call us today at 800-588-BAEZ, or contact us online.