Law Offices of Kenneth H. Lewis
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Possible Outcomes of a Criminal Case Appeal

The judge bangs the gavel, the prosecution high-fives, the trial has resulted in a successful conviction. While this may be the end of the road for some cases, other cases continue through a criminal court case appeal. Although there are a variety of reasons to make appeals, many are unsure of the possible outcomes.

Notice of Appeal Must be Filed

Appeals don’t happen out of thin air! Before an appeal takes place, a “Notice of Appeal” must be filed with the trial court. The Notice of Appeal starts the process of the appellate court reviewing the trial. The Clerk of the trial court will prepare a “Clerk’s Transcript” containing all the documents filed and prepared for the case. The court reporter will prepare a “Reporter’s Transcript” which is the transcription of everything said in open court. These two documents will form the basis for the appeal.

It may take a few months to have the Clerk’s Transcript and the Reporter’s Transcript prepared depending on the length of the trial. The attorneys then prepare “legal briefs” which consist of the legal arguments on their side. The defense argues that substantial mistakes of law were made, or that facts were insufficient to prove the prosecution’s case. After legal briefs are filed the case can be set for an “oral argument” before a 3-judge panel that hears the legal arguments but does not retry the case. Sometime after the oral arguments are made, the appellate court issues a written decision.

If the Appellate Court Affirms the Conviction

If the appellate court affirms the conviction the trial court’s decision stands and the sentence is upheld. In California, a “Petition for Review” can be filed in the California Supreme Court which has the discretion to hear any case it chooses, but is not under an obligation to hear any case except for death penalty cases. The California Supreme Court only hears about 100 non-death penalty cases a year so as a practical matter it is quite difficult to get a case heard.

If the Appellate Court Reverses/Vacates the Conviction

A reversal ordinarily means the court will overrule the original conviction and send the case back for a new trial. The court of appeal will not declare the defendant innocent or not guilty but will order a new trial held, but without the errors it found. For example, it will order a new trial without illegally obtained evidence being allowed to be used by the prosecution.

A court of appeal can also modify a sentence if it improper. This can result in a shorter sentence, but not a new trial. As you can see, a criminal case appeal can have a variety of beneficial outcomes. Hiring an experienced defense attorney is undoubtedly the best way to fight for your case.

If you or a loved one need to file an appeal, call {F:P:Site:Phone} for a free consultation concerning your case!

Categories: Criminal Law