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Appeals in Alabama

While the criminal justice system seeks perfection, those who are a part of the system know that the courts are unable to meet such an exacting standard. Mistakes are made in many instances, which is why both federal and state courts give those who are convicted the ability to appeal their rulings.

Whether the judge made an incorrect evidentiary ruling, a jury was given incorrect instructions, or the court simply got its decision wrong, the convicted party has a chance to rectify these mistakes through the appeals process.

Because you are appealing a conviction, the stakes of an appeal are even higher than in the underlying case – which is why hiring an experienced Alabama criminal appeals attorney is so important.

The legal system is intimidating enough, but the appeals process can be even more complex and arduous than a regular criminal case. Having your criminal case reviewed by a skilled appellate lawyer can uncover multiple grounds for appeal and increase the chances of maintaining your freedom.

Contact Alabama Criminal Lawyers today at (205) 981-2450 for a free consultation.

About Appeals in Alabama

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.

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.

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 a notice of appeal.

In federal criminal courts, you have just ten days from the notice of judgment to file a 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)

State and Federal Appeals

We handle 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 you were tried in a state court, you have the right to appeal your conviction or your sentence to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Unfortunately, there’s a tight deadline to notify the court that you intend to appeal; you have to act quickly to preserve your right to appeal.

You can ask the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to reconsider any criminal case, including felonies, misdemeanors local ordinance violations and post-conviction writs. If that court denies your appeal, you may petition the Supreme Court of Alabama to hear your case.

If your case involves a question of federally protected rights, you can even petition the United States Supreme Court for review of the Alabama state decision.

Federal Appeals

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.

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Alabama Rule 32

Those convicted of a crime in Alabama may be able to challenge their convictions through Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal procedure. Typically, this challenge is filed after a defendant has been convicted and lost his or her appeal. In other cases, it can be filed without an appeal of the original conviction.

An Alabama Rule 32 attorney can assist a defendant and his or her family prepare to challenge a conviction. One of the most complex issues often involved in a Rule 32 challenge is the issue of new evidence. Proper filing and argument is critical; not just any evidence will do.


In general, the rule requires that the new facts were not known to the defendant or his attorney at the time of the sentencing or at the time of filing post trial motions; that the facts are not merely cumulative to other facts known or do not amount to impeachment evidence; that if the facts were known, the outcome at trial or sentencing would likely have been different.

Additionally, a defendant will not be granted relief under the rule if the issue may still be raised on direct appeal or was addressed at trial. Or if the issue could have been, but was not, raised at trial.

There are, of course, many other rules and issues involved with filing a Rule 32 motion in Birmingham or elsewhere in Alabama. An experienced law firm should be counted on to help you make the most of the post-trial relief processes afforded to you under state and federal law.

Sometimes juries and judges get it wrong. And in many cases, the best work is often done in the post-trial phase. The reality is that many prosecutors and judges work closely together day in and day out. And judges are sometimes hesitant to rule against the state, particularly when the result will be a reduction or dismissal of the charges.

Thus, the appeals process is often critical and is the only thing standing between a defendant in years or decades behind bars. Using each part of the process to the best advantage of the defendant is critical as the process affords little or no opportunity to correct mistakes.

A Rule 32 attorney in Birmingham must use the law to the best advantage of his client.

Aggressive Post-conviction Relief

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.

Based in Birmingham, we represent people throughout the State of Alabama in federal and Alabama state criminal appeals and post-conviction proceedings. At Alabama Criminal Lawyers, 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, we 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 us to learn more about your case and your legal rights

Contact Alabama Criminal Lawyers today at (205) 981-2450 for a free consultation.