The appellate/post-conviction process is complex, subtle, and varies from state to state. However, the general structure of the appellate process, specifically, goes as follows. The process begins after a final judgment is rendered in a lower trial court. If the defendant properly initiates an appeal within a certain timeframe, the appellate process can continue. This initiation includes properly filing a “notice of appeal” and a “record on appeal” on time.
In the first round of appeals (direct appeals), attorneys present briefs and oral arguments to a panel of judges. The judges hear the arguments, read briefs, and investigate the initial case record to determine if there should be a retrial, a reduction of penalties, or even if the case should be completely dismissed. During the direct appeal process, judges are most concerned about finding legal errors committed by the prosecutor or trial court. If the rights of the defendant were infringed, then the defendant may be deserving of a new legal outcome.
Even if the direct appeal is rejected, a defendant can still advance his or her case in the second round of appeals (Supreme Court), or by initiating a post-conviction claim. In post-conviction proceedings, the trial court re-investigates the initial case for negligence or wrongdoing committed by the defendant’s trial attorney. If the defendant’s trial attorney is found ineffective in his or her representation, there can be a retrial or a mitigation of sentence. Sometimes, even a plea bargain can be re-examined.
Likewise, if you, a friend, or a family member are serving time for a crime, and have discovered new facts about your initial case that could exonerate you, there may still be time for legal recourse. “Cold cases” can be re-opened when new evidence emerges that meets certain requirements. These are considered “newly discovered” claims. They would include, for example, DNA evidence leading to an exoneration.
Appeals and post-conviction cases are challenging, in that facts take on a different significance, depending on whether they are asserted in the direct appeal, or in a post-conviction proceeding. Additionally, the law is constantly changing and it can vary depending upon location. If you, are appealing your case or seeking a post-conviction review, you need an experienced lawyer to assert your rights and maximize your chance of a positive legal outcome. Why an appellate or post-conviction attorney, rather than any other lawyer? Because the law is constantly being changed by new appellate court decisions both locally and nationally. Your attorney must be someone who constantly tracks these emerging case precedents, and is skilled at researching and keeping up to date on the intricacies of criminal law, and the rules which are peculiar to appeals and post-conviction cases.
If you have been charged with a federal crime in Phoenix, Arizona, or its neighboring cities, contact me immediately. Federal crimes are very serious matters and should be confronted with full force.