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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
You can appeal a conviction if a legal mistake occurred during your case. You must be able to provide evidence of a legal error for a higher court to review the case and the judge or jury’s decision. Possible legal errors include an unconstitutional arrest or search and seizure, evidence was improperly excluded or admitted, incompetent legal counsel, prosecutorial or juror misconduct, improper jury instruction, or an unlawful criminal sentence.
To appeal a criminal conviction in a circuit court, you have to provide oral or written notice of appeal within 42 days of your conviction or sentencing. To appeal a misdemeanor conviction in a district court, you have 14 days to file notice.
The Alabama criminal appeals process begins with filing notice of an appeal with a higher court. If you were convicted in a district court, you can appeal to the circuit court or the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
If you were convicted in the circuit court, you appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The next steps are to prepare and file the record of the case and then both parties prepare their briefs. Either party can request oral arguments, which may be granted or denied.
The appellate court will review the trial record, briefs, and oral arguments to determine if a legal error occurred. The appellate court can reverse the decision, affirm the decision, or remand the case back down for a new trial or sentence.