Courts don't always get things right the first time. Due to bad decisions by judges and prosecutors, legal mistakes, rights violations or inadequate representation, the first court that hears a case can sometimes make a serious mistake. And when courts make mistakes, the consequences are severe: Too much prison time, violations of Constitutional rights or even an innocent person in prison. That's why both the State of Alabama and the federal government give you the right to appeal a conviction -- that is, ask a higher court to review decisions by your trial court. In fact, if it's appropriate, you may be able to keep on appealing your case to higher courts until you reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Appeals courts aren't exactly the same as trial courts. While a trial is concerned about the facts of the case, an appeal focuses on the legal theories behind the facts. Almost all of its work consists of reading and discussing legal arguments prepared by both sides. You won't need to be present when the appeals court hears your case, and your attorney may not need to appear unless the court makes a special request. That's why, even if you're satisfied with your trial attorney's work, it's often best to hire a lawyer just for Alabama criminal appeals, like Steven Eversole.
About Appeals in Alabama
If you're considering filing an appeal, it's important to act quickly after your trial is finished, because waiting too long can take away your right to appeal. In Alabama state courts, you have 42 days from the day of sentencing to file notice of appeal. In federal criminal courts, you have just ten days from the notice of judgment to file notice of appeal. If you miss these deadlines, you'll have to show the court that you had a good reason, or you won't be able to pursue an appeal.
To successfully appeal a case, you must also be able to show grounds for your appeal -- some reason why you believe your case should be reviewed. This must be a mistake so serious that it could have affected the outcome of your case. Good grounds for appeal include, but aren't limited to:
- The trial judge gave the jury bad instructions.
- Evidence was admitted at trial that should have been withheld
- The prosecution didn't disclose the existence of important evidence
- The jury misbehaved in some important way
- Your lawyer at trial gave you ineffective representation
- There's important new evidence
- The court didn't have jurisdiction (that is, your trial was in the wrong court)
- You were not fit to stand trial (for example, because of mental illness)
Alabama State and Federal Appeals
Steven Eversole handles both Alabama state and federal appeals and other forms of post-conviction relief, including post-conviction motions, Rule 32 petitions and petitions for writs such as a federal writ of habeas corpus. Our office handles appeals from all state and federal district courts in Alabama, including:
- District and municipal courts in Jefferson and Shelby Counties and throughout the State of Alabama
- All Alabama Circuit Courts (trial courts)
- U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama -- Birmingham, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama -- Selma and Mobile federal courts
- U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama -- Montgomery, Dothan and Opelika
- The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
- The Alabama Supreme Court
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
- The United States Supreme Court
Direct appeals are just some of the post-conviction relief available to those who were unfairly convicted. Your lawyer can also file post-trial motions and petitions for writs, which are orders from a higher court requiring some specific action from a lower court. The most important writs for post-conviction relief are a writ of habeas corpus in federal courts (28 U.S.C. 2255), or a Rule 32 writ in state courts. Both types of writ ask the court to release someone from prison because he or she is being held unlawfully.
Alabama State Appeals
If you were convicted of a felony, misdemeanor or juvenile crime in Alabama, you will usually appeal your sentence to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in Montgomery. That court hears all appeals of felony and misdemeanor cases, violations of city ordinances (which includes many traffic violations) and post-conviction writs. If the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals decides your case, and you believe it made a mistake, you can appeal it to the Supreme Court of Alabama. If the case involves a question of your civil rights or federal law, you may then be able to take it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, once you've exhausted (used up) these appeals, you may still petition your trial court for other types of post-conviction relief. In Alabama state courts, your appellate lawyer may petition for state collateral review, which is called a Rule 32 petition. If the trial court denies this petition, you may appeal it to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and then to the Alabama Supreme Court. If the state Supreme Court denies your petition, the next step is to ask federal courts for a writ of habeas corpus.
If your case started out in an Alabama federal trial court -- the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Middle or Southern Districts of Alabama -- you must appeal the trial court's ruling to the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. If your case is denied by the Eleventh Circuit, you may be able to successfully petition for an en banc rehearing, which asks a larger number of judges to hear the same case. After the Eleventh Circuit, you may appeal your case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Legally, this is called asking the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari. The federal Supreme Court takes very few of the cases presented to it.
If all of the federal courts deny your direct appeals, you still have the right to ask them for federal collateral review, which is petitioning for a writ of habeas corpus. This writ goes through the same process as direct appeals, from the trial court that originally heard your case, to the Eleventh Circuit to the Supreme Court.
Aggressive Post-Conviction Relief Attorney
Criminal appeals and post-conviction proceedings are some of the most important parts of the United States criminal legal system. Without them, unfair or wrongful convictions might never be addressed, allowing innocent or unfairly convicted people to languish in prison for decades. But the appeals process is also very technical and academic, requiring lawyers to have a keen understanding of the legal theory and substantive requirements that apply in each case. Very few appeals and petitions for collateral review are successful. If you're considering pursuing an appeal in an Alabama criminal case, it's important to make sure you hire an appeals attorney who is well-versed and comfortable with state and federal appellate law.
Steven Eversole can help. Based in Birmingham, he represents people throughout the State of Alabama in federal and Alabama state criminal appeals and post-conviction proceedings. At the Eversole Law Offices, we believe that everyone, no matter what the charges against them, deserves an aggressive and thorough representation in court -- including appeals courts. Depending on the case and the legal arguments at hand, Steven Eversole may be able to get a case dismissed; a release from prison after conviction; a new, fairer sentence; or even a new trial. And because he offers free initial consultations, there's never any risk in meeting with Steven Eversole to learn more about your case and your legal rights.
If you or someone you care about is considering a federal or state criminal appeal in Alabama, call Steven Eversole today at 1-866-831-5292, or (205) 994-0616 in Birmingham.