When Can You Appeal?

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Nov 08

Lewis & Laws

When Can You Appeal?

by Lewis & Laws

When Can You Appeal?

If you have been convicted of a crime in a Washington state or federal court, you have the right to appeal, which means asking a higher court to review the conviction and sentence for legal errors. Many people do not understand that appeals are not like trials. Appellate judges do not look at any new evidence, or re-evaluate whether the witnesses were credible.

The only job of the appellate court is to determine whether legal errors occurred during the trial. These errors could include mistakes in gathering, using or accepting critical evidence. In other words, perhaps the evidence was not gathered in an ethical and/or Constitutional way, or perhaps there was no motion for discovery for certain evidence (which must then be thrown out).

The second reason for an appeal is in situations where the judge may have given the jury bad instructions, and the verdict was based on those instructions. If so, then the person found guilty may have a good cause for appeal. The judge must provide accurate interpretations of the law when handing down jury instructions, and if he or she does not, this mistake almost always guarantees a reversal of the case and a new trial.

The third reason for an appeal is when the verdict awards an inequitably large settlement—one which is simply impossible for the defendant to pay. This typically happens when jurors award an unusually large sum of money based on their emotions, and as a punishment to the defendant. If this should happen to you, you can file a motion to appeal, known as a motion for relief of judgment. While the court’s findings will not be reversed, the amount of money you owe could be reduced to a more equitable amount. 

While these are the most common reasons for an appeal, if you believe you have grounds for appeal which does not neatly fit into the categories above, you should speak to a highly experienced appellate attorney as quickly as possible. Remember, there are strict deadlines for filing an appeal, therefore you have a narrow window of opportunity to have your appeal filed.

How Will My Attorney Appeal My Case?

To begin the appeal process, your attorney will file a Notice of Appeal, which is a document explaining what is being appealed, and which court should hear the appeal. The Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of when a state court renders a judgment. Your attorney will also order transcripts of your original trial. Preparing and filing the transcripts and other pertinent documents can take a couple of months after the documents are identified and ordered. Your attorney will then review and identify any potential errors which can legally be appealed—a time-consuming process which can take one to three months.

When the proper issues for appeal have been identified, your attorney will draft an opening brief as well as reply to the prosecutor’s brief—usually another 2-3 months. Once the briefs have been filed, a case for oral argument will be scheduled by the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals will issue a written opinion—which can take another few months. While you can ask the Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision within twenty days, if you do not ask for a reconsideration, the decision becomes final 30 days after the decision is rendered.

As you can see, an appeal process is a long, painstaking procedure which can easily take more than a year. It is essential that you have an attorney who is well-qualified to file an appeal and write the briefs to back up your reason for appeal. In certain cases, you may be able to stay your sentence while the appeal is pending, although you would be required to post a bond. The court can deny your bond if they feel you might flee, if you might be considered a danger to the community, or if your being free would cause unreasonable trauma to the crime victim or the victim’s family.

The defense team of Baker, Lewis Schwisow & Laws, PLLC, has the experience and knowledge you need when you want to file an appeal. Our attorneys will aggressively defend your rights helping you get through the long appeal process in the best way possible.

Have you or someone you love been arrested and charged with a crime? Contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

The expert defense team at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws, PLLC vigorously defend the rights of individuals facing a multitude of charges in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!

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