Appealing a conviction

Appealing a criminal conviction.

Sometimes the law is on your side, but the judge or jury is not. If you went to trial you have the right to appeal your conviction by asking a higher court to rule on certain issues from your trial.

An appellate court will not generally reconsider the evidence in your trial. It will consider questions of law and procedure. There are often, though not always, questions about violations of Constitutional rights.

Appeals are a uniquely academic process, but a powerful tool in criminal defense. If the law is on your side, and the judge made a mistake before or during your trial, it doesn’t matter how bad the facts of your case look.  It is the job of the appellate court to rule on the mistakes of law or procedure.

There are also some few times when an appeal may be taken before the trial occurs. This is a rare occurrence, but when available, it is usually worth pursuing, because you have nothing to lose but time.

Preparing an appeal.

Preparing an appeal in a criminal case begins with preparing a written record of the trial proceedings and carefully reviewing any legal issues raised during the trial, and even those which were not raised but should have been.

Also, the trial record must be carefully examined to determine whether, even if the evidence is viewed with all inferences going in favor of the prosecution, 0ne or more of the essential elements of the crime(s) was not proven.

Appeals take a great deal of time and effort to prepare and argue.  The official record in a criminal case includes all of the papers filed by the lawyers, all of the evidence submitted at trial and at hearings, and transcripts of all hearings and the trial.

Even a relatively routine criminal case can involve many issues of law and present many potential arguments for appeal.  An appellate lawyer must carefully research the law regarding each issue and examine how the law was applied to the specific facts of your case.


Unfortunately, because appeals come after a guilty verdict at trial, most appeals are conducted with the defendant being held in jail. There are strict procedural rules on starting the appeals process, which means that it is very important to begin the process as soon as possible to make sure you preserve your rights to pursue an appeal.