What is an Appeal?
If you are convicted of a felony or misdemeanor you can appeal your conviction to a higher court. An appeal is not, however, a new trial, it is an attempt to convince the higher court to reverse the decisions of the trial court due to some legal error or errors which may have occurred. An appeal may ask for a reversal of your conviction and a new trial, or in some instances a reduction in the sentence you received. Appeals, unlike writs of habeas corpus, do not include the introduction of new evidence. They are based on the record of the trial.
The Process and Procedures
Your appellate attorney will read the record and write a brief pointing out any errors in the proceedings which may have led to an unfair or unconstitutional conviction. After the case is fully briefed by your attorney and the prosecuting attorney, a three judge panel will issue a written opinion. The whole process takes about a year. Trials take place in "courts of original jurisdiction." In California this is the Superior Court, and in federal cases, the United States District Court. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor you can appeal your conviction to the Appellate Department of the Superior Court. A felony conviction is appealed to the Court of Appeal and a conviction in federal court is appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If the California Court of Appeal affirms your state conviction you can petition the California Supreme Court to review their ruling. They do not, however, have to review; it’s up to them. If your case involves federal constitutional issues you can also petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. All of this is considered part of the “direct appeal process.” Similarly, in the federal system, if the Ninth Circuit affirms your conviction you can petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court has the discretion to decide if they will hear the case. Only a very tiny proportion of cases are actually heard in the highest court.
The Right to Appeal and the Choice of an Appellate Lawyer:
In California, indigent defendants convicted of felonies or even misdemeanors have the right to have an attorney appointed by the Court, at state expense to file an appeal. Appellants who are not indigent must choose and retain their own attorney, such as the attorneys employed by our firm. Effective appellate advocacy is expensive. If someone offers to provide you with appellate work at a very low price you should consider this person's qualifications and experience with appellate law, and with criminal law. If you cannot afford a private attorney except one whose experience and competence are in question, you should use an appointed attorney. Our firm specializes in major crimes and our attorneys have substantial experience with filing appeals in both state and federal courts. Of course, not every appeal is successful. All that any attorney can or should promise you is to be understanding of your problems, to do the highest quality legal work and to make sure that all documents are filed in a timely manner which is very important to the appellate process.
Criminal Law • Appeals • Writs
Special Expertise in Murder and other Serious Felonies