Did your case not go as planned?
Although our system is created to be fair and just, sometimes that is just not the case. From time to time a lawyer can make a mistake at the trial level, occasionally it’s the Judge who’s made the mistake. This is why our system has an appellate court process. In Florida, trial courts are reviewed by the District Courts of Appeal. Those District Courts review the case at the trial court level to make sure the law was followed. But beware, this review is not automatic. The losing party has to file an appeal, and in most cases, within a certain amount of time. In criminal cases, the defendant typically has thirty days to file an appeal, otherwise he or she waives that right.
What kinds of appeals are there?
Florida has several types of appellate options. There are direct appeals, which is a request to have the appellate court review a matter when the case is over. The Appellate courts also have the power to grant writs. Types of writs include a writ of mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari. An appellate “writ” is an order from that higher court telling the lower court or a governmental agent to do something.
What is post-conviction relief?
Not to be confused with appeals, post-conviction relief is most often argued at the trial level after a case and the appeal is resolved. Unlike appeals, the same court that made the decisions now being questioned will typically decide whether a motion for post-conviction relief should be granted. Some types of post-conviction relief motions include ineffective assistance of counsel (when a criminal defense attorney failed to represent his or her client competently), motion to correct illegal sentences or motions for reductions and modifications of sentences. Each one of these post-conviction relief requests have their own time limitations, so act quickly as once the time expires, you waive the right to argue these motions.
Can I get out of jail or prison while I am fighting my appeal?
Possibly. Florida has rules in place for a court to issue a supersedeas bond (appellate bond). In some situations, a person who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail or prison can request to post a bond and fight their appeal from home, rather than in that jail or prison cell. Call me today for a free evaluation on whether you or your loved one would qualify for a supersedeas bond.
What can an Appeal Court Do?
Once an appeal is filed, the appellate court can either “Affirm” the decision of the trial court (find that there were no errors, or simply put, deny your appeal). The Appellate court can also “Reverse” the decision to the trial court (find there were errors and possibly order that a new trial take place) or the Appellate Court can “Remand” the case to the trial court with instructions to do something different. Of these three options, the second two mean that there was an error at the trial level and you’ve won your appeal.
How Long Does It Take to Fight an Appeal?
Although there are strict timelines on when an appeal can be filed, when the transcripts need to be filed and when the appellate briefs need to be filed, there is not timeline on when a decision needs to be made. Once all of the paperwork is filed in an appeal, the Appellate Court has as much time as it needs to review the documents and make a decision. In emergency appeal situations, like a Writ of Habeas Corpus (arguing someone is being held in custody illegally), the Appeal Court typically decides these matters quickly. But in direct appeals or post-conviction matters, it could take months and sometimes years for a decision on your appeal.
Is there a difference between state and federal appeals?
Although the appellate options in state and federal court are similar, the timelines are usually shorter in the federal system. If a case originated in the state courts, typically the appeal will occur in the state appellate courts (District Court of Appeals and Florida Supreme Court). If the case originated in the Federal Courts, typically the appeal will occur in the federal courts (Circuit Court of Appeals, US Supreme Court). In some instances, a state case can be heard by a Federal Appellate Court. An example of this is when there is an argument that a state or local law violates rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
What I Can Do?
With over twenty years of criminal defense experience, I have handled both state and federal appeals for my clients, with successes that any lawyer would be proud of. If you or a loved one was convicted of a crime, call me today to discuss the case. I will be happy to give you a thorough, free case evaluation to see whether an appeal or a post-conviction motion is right in your situation.