If you believe that you received an unjust conviction for a criminal offense, you may file an appeal for the case to be reconsidered by a higher court. The appeal process will depend on the kind of appeal you will be filing, and every appeal has certain requirements that must be met. It is crucial to understand how the system works, what steps you need to take, and what factors you should consider before filing. The most significant part of this process is hiring an experienced lawyer with the knowledge and resources to help you through every stage of the process.
Understanding the Appeals System in Virginia
An appeal from the general district court to the circuit court referred to as an appeal de novo, is the type of appeal that would be filed for a misdemeanor or a traffic offense. An appeal de novo disregards the general district court’s judgment, ignoring its findings and rulings and allowing the case to be reviewed again from the beginning. You may employ a different defense strategy or pursue a trial by jury, even if your last case was a bench trial. The circuit court will either uphold the general district court’s decision, change the case’s outcome, or send it forward for a new trial.
If the circuit court denies your appeal, you may file an appeal from the circuit court to the Court of Appeals. For the Court of Appeals to consider the case valid, it must be founded on the idea of “error on the record.” This means that the lower court made a serious legal mistake in reaching its decision, and this mistake is evident based on the record of the case. An example of this would be the prohibition of evidence or admitting improper evidence. In extreme cases, if the Court of Appeals denies your appeal, it then moves to the Supreme Court of Virginia, in which you must prove that the Court of Appeals made an error based on case law in its ruling.
Requirements for Filing an Appeal
If you are appealing a decision of the general district court, you must file within 10 days of the general district court order. Your appeal rights are waived if you do not file within this time. If you are appealing a decision of the circuit court, your appeal must be filed within 30 days after the trial. You lose your right to appeal if you do not file within this period. Each case has a different filing process and may allow a different number of appeals. However, you can generally make only one appeal from the general district court to the circuit court and one appeal from the circuit court to the Court of Appeals.
The Appeal Process
The first step in filing for an appeal is to file a written notice of the appeal, along with a $25 fee. You should also file a transcript of the previous trial rather than filing a less thorough statement of facts that describe the trial’s events. Appeals cases are very complicated and require strong, compelling arguments based on specific technical issues in the lower court case. It isn’t easy to know which facts the judges will want to focus on, so a transcript ensures nothing is omitted. An appeals lawyer will help you keep track of important documents and ensure they are submitted to the right places within the proper time frame.
Next, you will file the petition for appeal with the appropriate court. This petition explains why the previous verdict should be challenged and provides the legal framework for your case. It must be clear that the previous judge’s ruling or verdict violates rules of law previously established. An appeals lawyer is necessary at this stage due to their particular skills and resources. Knowledge of the law means the ability to draw comparisons to prior cases, which may be critical to your verdict. An appeals lawyer will also allow you to overcome any procedural obstacles that may block your appeal.
Virginia has two appeals courts—the Court of Appeals and the Virginia Supreme Court. All criminal cases, except for death penalty cases, and all domestic cases go through the Court of Appeals first, while most civil cases will go straight to the Virginia Supreme Court.
If your petition to the court is granted and you obtain a hearing, you will file an opening brief, which is usually a reworded version of the petition for appeal. In the Court of Appeals, you will appear before a panel made up of three judges and explain why your conviction should be overturned. No new evidence is presented, and no new witnesses are called. The case’s strength rests entirely on the appellate brief your attorney submits to the court and the information your attorney presents in the legal argument. If any of those judges agree that there is merit to the appeal, it is granted. If none of them find merit in the appeal, it is denied.
If you are not satisfied with the results of this appeal, you may appeal again to the full panel of 11 judges comprising the Court of Appeals or to the Virginia Supreme Court. The appeal process will be similar, and the court can either reverse the ruling in whole or in part or affirm the ruling in whole or in part. If the ruling is reversed, the case will likely be remanded back to the trial court for another trial. The Supreme Court only hears a limited number of cases each year, so you are not guaranteed the chance to overturn a previous decision.
Contact WSCB To Discuss Your Appeals Case
If you think that your criminal case could have been resolved differently, you may be entitled to an appeal. Hiring an appeals attorney is imperative, as they can provide you with all of the necessary information to navigate this complex process and give valuable legal advice to ensure you make the right decisions. In this type of case, experience, skill, and speed are indispensable. Call or email WSCB Attorneys to discuss your case with our team of experienced appeals lawyers.