How Long Is the Conviction Appeal Process?

Jul 11, 2016 | Criminal Law

The case is closed when a court rules in favor of an acquittal, but if you’re found guilty, you can still turn to the conviction appeal process.

For those unfamiliar with it, the conviction appeal process gives the losing party in a lawsuit the chance to possibly overturn a court’s ruling by appealing to a higher court. The conviction itself can be appealed or the sentencing alone if you believe the punishment is disproportional to the crime based on other cases with similar elements. In instances like this, the conviction is left intact with only the prison term being called into question by the losing party.

For an appeal to be successful, it must be proven that the trial court made a reversible mistake in the application of the law. This is uncommon, however, as the law doesn’t guarantee perfect trials and only serious errors will result in an overturned verdict. At the same time, there have been cases where clear, significant mistakes were made—prominent among them instances of constitutional rights being denied.

What Is Involved in a Conviction Appeal Process?

The person appealing a verdict, known as the appellant, submits a legal brief to the higher court that describes the trial court’s errors. The other side composes a response to the allegations, and then the appellate court reviews the arguments from both parties to determine whether or not errors were made in the initial court proceedings. If errors are found to have been made, it is then determined if they are serious enough to warrant an overturned verdict, retrial or resentencing.

If the appellate court allows it, oral arguments can be presented by the two sides, who would then be asked questions by the presiding judge. Following the review of the written briefs and the question and answer period (if permitted) the court then makes its decision. At this point the original verdict could be upheld or modified, a new trial could be ordered, or in rare cases new evidence or facts could be considered in relation to the original trial. In even rarer cases, the case could be thrown out completely.

So How Long Does the Conviction Appeal Process Take?

An appeal can only be filed after the trial court has delivered a final verdict. A direct appeal can actually be made by the losing party at the end of the trial, which would entail the presiding judge overruling the decision reached by the jury, but this is seldom successful. In most cases, the convicted individual needs to file for an appeal within 30 days of the verdict (in federal court this deadline is 60 days).

While the appellant is required to file a notice of appeal very quickly after being convicted, after that point it can take months for an appeal to be heard. Once heard, it can sometimes take weeks or even months for a decision to be made on whether the conviction will be upheld or reversed.

If you believe mistakes have been made in your trial, and you want to challenge your conviction, an experienced appellate lawyer can help you navigate the appeal process. Successful appeals are uncommon, but a professional can help you better understand your chances moving forward. Click to learn more about the conviction appeal process by contacting the Wilbanks Law Firm, P.C. online.