Who Can Appeal a Criminal Conviction?

Anyone convicted of a crime at a trial has a right to appeal that conviction or the sentence imposed to a higher court called an appellate or reviewing court.  An appeal asks the higher court to overturn the trial court's decision based on legal or procedural error.  No new evidence may be introduced on appeal; instead the appellate court looks at the record and evidence from the trial court to determine if the trial court properly decided the case.  If a defendant is successful at appeal, he will be entitled to a new trial or the charges against him will be dismissed.

What Legal Errors are Grounds for Reversing a Conviction?

There are many complicated ways that a conviction can be overturned on appeal including: 

  • Insufficient evidence against the defendant
  • Improper instruction of the jury
  • Error in law used
  • Use of illegally obtained evidence at trial
  • Inadequate representation for the defendant

Does my Plea Affect my Rights to an Appeal?

In most instances, if you enter in a guilty plea you will forfeit your rights to a criminal appeal.  However, it is possible to enter in a conditional plea or a plea of “no contest”, which would allow you to appeal certain pre-trial issues.  For example, if the trial court concluded that a piece of evidence should be suppressed, you can enter in a conditional plea and then appeal the ruling regarding evidence. 

Are There any Alternatives to Filing an Appeal?

Yes- filing a post-trial motion with the lower trial court may be an alternative to filing an appeal.  A post-trial motion basically asks the court to correct the error after rather than reverse the decision on appeal. 

One advantage of post-trial motions is that trial courts would much rather fix their own errors rather than send the case to a higher court for further review.  Appealing a case consumes much more time and resources than post-trial motions. 

On the other hand, a disadvantage of filing a post-trial motion is that there is a chance that the trial court could make more points against your position when addressing the motion.  These could be used against you, but if they help point out the trial court’s error, it could work in your favor.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Appeal a Criminal Conviction?

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges a criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights and legal defenses.  If you have been convicted of a crime, and want a new attorney for the purposes of appeal, you are entitled to hire a new lawyer.