Criminal Appeals Process
After a lengthy court trial, the judge or the jury has found you guilty. To make matters worse, your sentence consists of far too many years behind bars. Your criminal lawyer, of course, intends to appeal. What does this mean to you, and what will it entail?
Appealing Your Nevada Conviction
Anyone found guilty of having committed a criminal offense (felony or a gross-misdemeanor crime) has the right to request an appeal through a higher court. This is particularly likely to happen in cases where the punishment proves to be excessively long or onerous. If the odds are in your favor, it may be possible to show that certain elements of the trial were unfairly prejudicial or to demonstrate that the guilty verdict itself was erroneous.
The appellate process is important for ensuring that wrongly accused individuals are not forced to spend unnecessary time in jail.
If your attorney can prove that you are innocent, the appellate court will overturn the original conviction. Otherwise, several alternative outcomes can result. For instance, the appellate court may:
- Find evidence of unfair errors or omissions in the previous proceeding that warrant a new trial.
- Agree that your punishment is excessive and order a new sentencing hearing.
- Affirm the original verdict and permit your conviction to stand.
An appellate hearing does not equate to starting over. The higher court will not accept new evidence or testimony. It will simply take a closer look at the transcripts and records from your original trial.
How Will the Appeals Process Work?
Your attorney will start by filing a notice of appeal in the court that tried your criminal case. He has a limited length of time in which to do this. If your trial took place in district court, he must appeal within 30 days from the date of your conviction. On the other hand, if your guilty verdict came down in district or federal district court, he has only 10 days during which to begin the appeals process.
Once your attorney has submitted the notice of appeal, the trial court will file the transcripts of your proceedings with the appellate court. Your defense team will now have 120 days in which to draw up an appellate brief that demonstrates point-by-point the reasons why you should win on appeal. The state district attorney will file an opposition to the points in that brief, and your lawyer may or may not get the chance to reply to the opposition.
In some cases, your attorney will also be able to present to the appellate judge an oral argument supporting the statements in his brief. After a period of review, the appellate court will hand down a written decision.
How Long Does the Appeals Process Take?
If the state of Nevada chooses to fast-track your appeal, it will normally resolve within three months. Unfortunately, this expedited method will not always work to your advantage. That’s because it insists that your trial attorney be the one to draft the opening appellate brief while forcing him to limit its length to no more than 10 pages. The process also restricts your lawyer from presenting an oral argument before the judges.
On the other hand, you may receive the benefit of a full-length appeal if:
- You’ve received a sentence of death or life in prison.
- The court feels that the facts of your case merit a more exhaustive analysis.
- Your attorney specifically requests it.
Although the more comprehensive appeal can last as long as a year or more, it affords numerous opportunities and unlimited tools to assist in presenting your case. It also gives you the option of switching over to a capable appellate attorney if you think it will be to your benefit.
What Are My Chances of Winning an Appeal?
Any appeal is filled with challenges, but the rewards can make the risks worthwhile. This is particularly true if your original trial was riddled with factual omissions or errors. Your chances of success will be that much higher if:
- The jury received improper instructions.
- Your lawyer was ineffective or guilty of malpractice.
- The prosecution deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence that might have aided in your defense.
- Certain regulations or laws were subject to erroneous application.
- The judge improperly admitted prejudicial evidence or suppressed information that might have absolved you.
- The prosecution failed to prove your guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.
Your chances of a successful appeal will increase exponentially if you are able to garner the support of a trade association, government agency, business or advocacy group with an interest in the legal issues relating to your case. Although they will have no direct involvement in your appeal per se, these so-called friends of the court can file briefs, offer information and generate public interest. Such assistance can be invaluable in bringing your appeal to a positive conclusion.
What If I Lose My Appeal?
In some cases, the higher court may not reverse the lower court’s decision, but they may also order a whole new trial if they determine that the legal process was compromised.
If your appeal should fail, you will have one year in which to further challenge your conviction via a writ of habeas corpus. This permits you to introduce evidence that never appeared in your original trial. However, it is vital to do so only with the assistance of a criminal attorney. An incorrectly filed writ is likely to be dismissed, and after that, your opportunity to file another may disappear entirely.
Don’t throw your chances away. If you intend on mounting a criminal appeal, please contact Weiner Law Group at 702-202-0500 for assistance.