Judges can be wrong in their rulings. Innocent Texas criminal defendants receive unfair sentences regularly and suffer needlessly. These wrongful convictions occur as the result of common blunders made during your defense process. Quite often, the verdict may be reversed by seeking a Texas federal or state criminal appeal aided by a highly trained Dallas Criminal Lawyer
familiar with the appellate process.
What is the definition of an appeal?
An appeal is defined as a request to a higher court by the losing party in a court action to overturn a lesser court's ruling. The basis of an appeal has to be a reversible mistake within the application of what the law states at the trial court level (i.e., using the facts, the court plainly misapplied the law).
In criminal cases, a good appeal can focus on the conviction alone or perhaps the sentencing portion of the decision without having regard to the particular fundamental conviction. For example, in cases where a defendant is properly found guilty of manslaughter but a judge sentences the defendant to a prison term which is beyond the limit of the law, the defendant will only appeal the prison term while leaving the actual conviction itself intact.
An appeal can be filed only after a final judgment or order has been reached by the trial court. This is quite simply for reasons of efficiency, so that the court system is not bogged down by delays and trials aren't continually put on hold while waiting for appeals associated with a judge's every verdict.
At the culmination of a trial, the losing party may also make direct appeals (e.g., motion for a new trial, motion for directed verdict) to the presiding judge to instantly overrule the jury's judgement, nevertheless these are rarely successful.
Does an appeal constitute a new trial?
No. In an appeal there are no brand new issues provided or witnesses named to testify. The appellate court will only evaluate the trial's transcript and evidence introduced in the course of the trial to determine whether there were faults in either procedure or application of the law. Even when there were problems, if they are judged minor - legally called "harmless error" - the judgment will not be overturned or a new trial granted.
Can any judgment be appealed?
The short response is no, there's no absolute right to an appeal. Every state has laws which outline the kinds of cases that appellate courts may consider. There must be an error of law for an appellate court to review a case. The fact that the losing party didn't like the verdict is not really enough to sustain an appeal.
That being said, even in administrative courts or lower level courts, if a person's constitutional rights have been infringed upon, some might file a suit in order to enforce his or her rights and/or to revisit the original case.
What is the appeals process?
In Texas court proceedings, the appellant or petitioner (the party appealing the decision) must file a notice of appeal within thirty days from the decision. In federal court, the deadline is 60 days. The filing of the notice of appeal starts the clock running on the appeals process and then there are prescribed deadlines from this point on. The petitioner submits a legal brief detailing the alleged errors of law made by the trial court, and the respondent or appellee (the party that prevailed at the trial) composes an answer.
Once the appellate court receives both petitioner and respondent briefs, it will assess the arguments and prepare a determination of whether: a) there were errors of law made by the trial court, and b) if perhaps the errors rise to the level of "reversible error" (exceedingly serious errors). As mentioned above, benign errors could well be disregarded by the appellate court.
There might not be oral arguments introduced by petitioner and respondent. If the court makes the decision to hear oral arguments, the petitioner will present her or his arguments and additionally field inquiries from the judge(s) and then the respondent will do the same. In many appeals, this question and answer format usually lasts ten to fifteen minutes per side.
Whether the appeals court hears oral arguments or issues a judgment established solely on the written briefs, the court will either: 1) affirm the decision; 2) request a new trial; 3) modify the ruling in some way; 4) consider new facts or evidence (seldomly); or 5) in extremely rare cases, could possibly throw out the case entirely.
What is the likelihood of a successful appeal?
The number of successful appeals is undoubtedly low. Appellate courts give the trial court great leeway in carrying out trials. The law does not assure ideal trials, consequently appeals courts will only overturn verdicts which contain clear, significant errors of law.
Because of the flexibility appeals courts give trial verdicts, petitioners carry a far greater obligation in demonstrating that errors of law were definitely considerable rather than innocuous. If an appellate court can discover any satisfactory argument that the error might not have changed the verdict (and is therefore "harmless"), it will refuse to overturn the verdict.
There tend to be, naturally, a large number of cases where severe errors were made and appeals courts will overturn those decisions. Significantly serious are charges that the trial court waived the law guaranteed by the constitution, including due process and equal protection rights.
I lost my trial due to the fact that my attorney made foolish blunders, can't I depend on an appeal to correct them?
Don't count on appeals to compensate for any genuine or perceived deficiencies at trial. You must put all of your energy into the trial itself, which requires finding the best lawyer to attempt the case. Successfully appealing a verdict simply because you had a deficient attorney is a really proposition. You cannot appeal because you simply had a bad lawyer.
You can appeal on the basis that your attorney was so incompetent that you simply were denied your 6th Amendment right to a fair trial (recognized legally as an "ineffective assistance of counsel" appeal). This occurs nearly exclusively in criminal defense situations and the standard for the appeal is extremely high - courts are really deferential to the competency of attorneys and maintain a strong presumption that the lawyer's assistance was within professional standards. To put it in perspective, there have been circumstances where an attorney has fallen asleep during a trial, yet the verdict was not overturned nor the case retried.
Many situations aren't eligible for appeal since the trial attorney did not object to a ruling during the trial, and therefore didn't "preserve" that issue for appeal. For example, a written statement from a witness accusing a defendant of robbery is entered into evidence, but the witness does not testify at trial. The defense attorney does not object and the defendant is convicted based solely on the written statement. The Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to face his accuser, a right which, if infringed, could form the basis for an appeal.
Because the attorney neglected to object at trial to the admission of a written statement rather than live testimony, however, the defendant is regarded to have waived this priviledge and an appeal will possibly not be allowed on that issue.
The example sounds absurd; an attorney waives your constitutional protection through ineptitude, yet your appeal on the basis of inadequate assistance of counsel fails - but it happens frequently. An appeals court may reason that calling the witness on the stand wouldn't have had any positive effect for the defendant and as a result the decision not to object could quite possibly be considered a trial strategy. That's the type of deferential latitude attorneys receive in ineffective assistance of counsel appeals and the reason why it is critical to choose your attorney wisely at the beginning of the process and stay involved during each part of the trial.
What is the definition of a writ?
A writ is a directive from a higher court ordering a lower court or government official to take a specific action in accordance with the law. For instance, if a lower court decides to consider a suit that is out of its jurisdiction, one or more of the attorneys involved may object and seek a writ of mandamus (writ of mandate) from an appeals court ordering the lower court to transfer the case to another jurisdiction.
How are writs and appeals different?
Writs are extraordinary court orders and solely issued when a moving party (the one seeking the writ) has no other options. In the case of the writ of mandamus from above, the moving party had to act quickly because the lower court improperly took the case. If the moving party had merely objected at trial and waited to appeal, a tremendous waste of time and money would have occured - and all for absolutely nothing if the trial court improperly took the case.
Generally, superior courts won't review conclusions of a lower court until a final verdict is delivered, for the previously mentioned reasons of efficiency and leeway given to lower courts. Unlike appeals, which require a final verdict, writs are on the spot orders and extraordinary in that the usual course of a trial is interrupted, potentially causing disorder and delay.
Courts do not necessarily take such events lightly and superior courts do not issue writs often. A court will only issue a writ when a lower court wrongly decided an issue, permanent harm would happen to a party, and there are no other options.
Courts may possibly also issue writs, such as writs of attachment and execution, in order to force compliance with a courts order by an unwilling party.
What's a writ of habeas corpus?
A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be delivered to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he or she should be released from custody.
Literally translated, a writ of habeas corpus is a court order to "produce the body," and is generally filed by those in prison, though they are also filed by those who have been held in contempt of court by a judge and either imprisoned or threatened with imprisonment. Also recognized as "the Great Writ," habeas petitions are very often referred to as the hallmark of the United States justice system. Distinct from other countries where the powers that be may toss any person in jail and keep them there indefinitely without filing charges or conducting a hearing, habeas corpus serves as a check on the government and offers prisoners a legal avenue to protest their imprisonment.
A habeas corpus petition can be filed in state or federal court. Before filing in federal court, however, all state options must be exhausted first.
Everyone has the privilege to challenge illegal imprisonment or inhuman prison conditions. Like all writs, however, courts will insist on clear and convincing evidence in support of a writ and do not issue them frequently.
Dealing with the appeals process is hard and time consuming. An experienced Dallas Lawyer can help you plan your next move. Contact them today for a free initial consultation.