Although millions of criminal cases in America are resolved via plea agreements these days, there are still many cases that go all the way to trial. A trial could be a “bench” trial, meaning that the judge is the only one to hear evidence and make a decision, or it could be a “jury” trial, meaning that a group of “peers” from your community will hear the evidence and decide the case. Either way, going through a trial can be a grueling experience. If the trial ends with a guilty verdict, defendants may feel like they have run out of options.
Pursuing an appeal
Fortunately, those who have been convicted at trial and believe the result was erroneous in some way may have the option to pursue an appeal of that decision. But, what exactly happens when you appeal a criminal conviction? Well, for starters, it is important to know that your appeal – which is really a request for a different result in the case – goes to a different court than the one in which your trial occurred. The “trial” court level in the American judicial system is the front-line court, usually taking all cases that are filed. The “appellate” level, however, is considered to be one step above trial courts – they are there to review the decisions made by judges at the trial court level to make sure they are correct, among other purposes.
The heart of appellate action is usually written “briefs” that explain what, exactly, you think the mistakes in the trial court were and how they should be corrected. Some ask for a new trial, others ask for a conviction to be overturned, for example. If necessary, the appeal may even be set for oral arguments, where your attorney can present your reasons for the appeal in person before the higher-level judges.
You may have a chance to get a different result in an appeal of a criminal conviction. For more information about how our law firm attempts to help Washington residents who are exploring this option, please visit the criminal appeals overview section of our law firm’s website.