Appealing A Criminal Conviction: What You Need To Know

Posted on: 20 July 2015

When a defendant is found not guilty during a criminal court case, that is merely the end of the trial. However, this is not necessarily the case if the defendant is found guilty. In criminal court cases, if an individual is found guilty, there are many times when he or she can appeal the case, which is to say that he or she was found wrongfully guilty for one of a number of reasons. The defendant can appeal the case in a variety of ways: by trying to get the judge to overturn the jury's guilty verdict, to petition for a re-trial, or to an appeal for a writ, which is when there is a petition to a higher court to overturn the court's guilty verdict. Throughout the course of this brief article, the third and final item will largely be discussed.

Appellate Procedure

When you seek to appeal the verdict, you will be dealing with appellate courts. Both state and federal courts exist in a hierarchy of procedure: the lowest being trial courts, then intermediate appellate courts and, finally, high or supreme courts. When a defendant is convicted, he or she may appeal to the intermediate appeals court so long as he or she does so in a time frame that is consistent with that which is allowed of them by the statutory time limit. This limit varies from person to person.

Defendants, with the help of their attorneys, must file a brief, which describes the way in which they were wrongfully convicted or describe why their trial should not have taken place to begin with. The intermediate court will decide whether or not this appeal is satisfactory. This is not to say that your journey ends here if the intermediate appellate court overturns your decision. At that point, you can appeal to a high or supreme court; although, admittedly, the process is long and arduous.

Finality of Acquittals

If a defendant has been acquitted, a court can not overturn this decision and no appeal can be made. If a person has been convicted for a crime, however, then the government can issue an appeal for the creation of the new trial.

For example, say a person has been convicted of murder. The judge moves for a new trial due to jury misconduct or improper instruction. The government is able to then appeal the new trial, fighting to prove that one is not needed. If an appellate court decides that there was no jury misconduct or that there was no improper instruction, then the appellate court can essentially overturn the judge's appeal and give the person a guilty verdict.


Generally speaking, an appellate court will only address claims that are made by the defendant and will not redress outside sources. If a defendant chooses or erroneously did not make certain legal claims during his or her argument, he or she must abandon those claims during the appellate hearing. If, for example, a person makes the claim the prosecution made an unfair argument during the trial, that person's appeal will be waived if it is the case that the defense did not properly address this during the original trial itself. In other words, if the defense did not make the claim that the argument was unfair to begin with, the appellate court will not listen to such claims during the appeal trial.

Appealing a guilty verdict can ultimately be a long and arduous process. Having said that, if you genuinely believe that your conviction was unfair or you believe that there was some form of improper conduct that took place throughout the course of your trial, consult with your criminal defense attorney.