Jacksonville Appeal LawyersExpert Appellate Attorney
A guilty verdict in a criminal proceeding can feel like the end of the world. But, a trial court’s ruling is not necessarily the end of the road–and that is true for other types of court orders as well. Many court orders, including a judgment and sentence in a criminal case, are subject to appeal. However, you must have specific grounds for appeal.
Believing that the trial court made the wrong decision is not sufficient to support an appeal. Instead, your appeal lawyer must identify problems with the trial process that contributed to the conviction. You have just 30 days from the entry of the court’s order to file a notice of appeal.
The Florida Appeals Process
The appeal process is quite a bit different from the trial process. Rather than arguing facts and offering evidence, appellate attorneys make legal arguments about whether the verdict was impacted by issues such as:
- Whether evidence was wrongly admitted or excluded at trial
- Whether the jury was properly instructed
- Whether the trial judge abused his or her discretion in making certain rulings
- Whether the trial judge considered impermissible information at sentencing
What Happens if I Win an Appeal?
If the appellate court finds that a legal error occurred at trial, the appellate court may take actions such as vacating the conviction/sentence or sending the case back for a new trial or for the trial court to reconsider sentencing in accordance with the appellate court’s ruling.
Of course, the appropriate remedy will vary depending on the error or misconduct in the case and its effect.
Often, if the conviction is overturned by the court of appeals, the prosecution will have the option of trying the case again. So, successfully appealing a criminal case isn’t necessarily the end of the process. However, depending on the circumstances of the case, the prosecution may opt not to retry the case. Even if they do, they may face obstacles in the second prosecution.
Some of those obstacles may stem from the appeal–for instance, the appellate court may have ruled that a key piece of evidence should not be considered.
Appealing Criminal Convictions Involving Plea Agreements
When you enter a guilty plea in a criminal court proceeding, you should be advised that by doing so, you are agreeing to waive a number of rights, such as the right to confront witnesses against you or call witnesses on your behalf. The right to appeal is also one of the rights you agree to waive.
However, there are exceptions, and sometimes a sentence imposed pursuant to a plea agreement can be appealed. For example, a defendant who was coerced or misled into entering a plea may have grounds for appeal after timely seeking to withdraw his or her plea.
A person may also appeal a dispositive issue upon entering a plea of guilty or no contest when his or her attorney, the judge, and the state have agreed the issue is dispositive and the person specifically reserves his or her right to appeal the issue.
If you entered a guilty plea or entered into a plea agreement and believe that there were problems with the process, you may want to consult a criminal defense attorney to learn more about whether you have grounds to appeal the conviction or your sentence.
Talk to a Jacksonville Appeal Attorney
The appeals process is so different from the pre-trial and trial processes that many criminal defense lawyers don’t even handle appeals. Instead, many will refer a client who wants to appeal a conviction to a Florida appeal attorney who has more specific experience with the appellate process.
At Johnson and Lufrano, P.A., we help clients not just in the Jacksonville area but throughout Florida with criminal defense at every stage of the process. That includes appeals of Florida criminal convictions and protective injunctions. Whether you are facing criminal charges or have been convicted and want to fight your conviction or your sentence, a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys is a great place to start.
Call us right now at 904-513-3905 or fill out our contact form to take the first step toward educating yourself about your rights and options. You have a limited time to appeal in a criminal case, so don’t delay.
Florida Criminal Appeals Frequently Asked Questions
The best source of information about possible grounds for appeal in your case, the timeline, and procedural requirements is an experienced appellate attorney. To help you get started learning about the process, we have provided answers to some of the questions we hear frequently below.
How long do you have to appeal a case in Florida?
In Florida, you must file a notice of appeal within 30 days of sentencing. The sooner you speak with an attorney who handles Florida criminal appeals, the better, since your attorney will need time to gather information about your case and prepare your notice.
What are the grounds for an appeal in Florida?
Many people think of an appeal as asking the higher court to re-decide the case, but that’s not how the Florida criminal court system works. The appellate court will not substitute its own judgment for that of the trial judge, as long as the court followed the rules and stayed within the bounds of the law.
To appeal a conviction or a sentence, the defendant typically must show a legal error, misconduct, or ineffective assistance of counsel. Some examples might include:
- A judge admitting evidence that should have been excluded under the law or rules of criminal procedure
- A judge improperly excluding evidence
- An attorney, party, or other person improperly interacting with a member of the jury
- A member of the jury being impaired or otherwise unfit to serve
- Prosecutorial misconduct that prejudiced the defendant
- Discrimination or other harmful impropriety in jury selection
Your appeals lawyer will assess your case and discuss any possible grounds for appeal with you.
How long does an appeal take in Florida?
The exact timeline for a Florida criminal appeal will vary depending on the complexity of the case, how quickly parties submit briefs and other materials, how busy the appellate court docket is, and how long it takes the court to rule. At a minimum, you should expect an appeal to take several months. It is not unusual for an appeal to take more than a year.
The notice of appeal must be filed at any time up to 30 days after sentencing. Then, the appellant in a criminal case has 30 days to file the initial brief once the record on appeal is transmitted to the appellate court. In other words, months may pass between the conviction and the filing of the initial brief. Then, the state has time to respond to that brief, and in some cases shorter reply briefs will follow. In a civil appeal, when someone is seeking review of a domestic violence injunction, the appellant has 70 days to file his or her initial brief after the filing of the notice of appeal.
Parties may request oral arguments if it may benefit your case; however, the appellate court has discretion as to whether to hear oral argument or not. Appellate court rulings are issued in writing after deliberation, not immediately after briefs are submitted or oral argument is heard.
Do I need a lawyer to file an appeal?
You’re not legally required to have attorney representation in a Florida criminal appeal, but it is in your best interest to do so. The appellate process is highly technical–so much so that many criminal defense attorneys don’t even take it on, but instead refer the client to an appellate lawyer or team up with an attorney with specific appellate experience.
A criminal defendant who represents himself or herself does not get a break on the rules. The unrepresented defendant is responsible for arranging for assembly of the record on appeal, for formatting briefs in precise accordance with the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, for citing proper authorities and making legally cogent arguments. Very few people without specific experience in this area are able to do that effectively, so it’s generally best to put the substantive and technical management of your appeal in the hands of a seasoned appellate lawyer.
Is post-conviction relief an appeal?
Post-conviction relief is a general term that applies to a number of possible remedies a criminal defendant may pursue after being found guilty of a crime. Though an appeal is technically one form of post-conviction relief, the term is more often used to describe post-conviction motions to the trial court. Some types of post-conviction relief that may be available in Florida include motions to withdraw your plea, for sentence modification, motion to correct an illegal sentence, motion for jail credit, and motions to vacate the judgment of conviction.
Depending on your circumstances, it may be in your best interest to pursue one or more forms of post-conviction relief, file an appeal, or pursue one remedy with another in reserve. The sequence of filings and the time limits applicable to each will play an important role in determining the best approach for you, so you’ll want to talk to an experienced appeals lawyer as soon as possible.