If a jury of your peers convicts you of committing a crime in the state of Washington, is that necessarily the end of the case?
Can you appeal a conviction by a group of jurors? What if you accepted a guilty plea – can you appeal it? Keep reading – you are about to get some important answers regarding appeals.
Your legal battle is not necessarily over after a criminal conviction. Convicted defendants are sometimes able to have a conviction by a jury overturned by an appellate court.
HAVE YOU BEEN CONVICTED OF A CRIME IN WASHINGTON STATE?
This is a brief introduction to the appellate courts and the criminal appeals process in the state of Washington.
If you have been convicted of a crime in this state, follow along to learn more about your right to appeal your conviction.
If you want to appeal a particular conviction, or if you have questions regarding a specific appeal, you will need personalized advice from an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney.
ON WHAT BASIS CAN A CONVICTION BE APPEALED?
If you were convicted of committing a crime by a panel of jurors, on what basis can you appeal the conviction? You may appeal a criminal conviction by a jury in the state of Washington if:
1. The trial court acted in error.
2. The trial was not conducted fairly.
3. Your legal rights were violated in any way.
WHAT STEPS MUST BE TAKEN TO APPEAL A CONVICTION?
Four steps are involved when a defendant appeals a criminal conviction by a jury in this state:
1. Notice of Appeal: A convicted defendant must file a notice of appeal with the appellate court that has jurisdiction over the case within thirty days of a criminal court conviction.
2. Filing of Briefs: The defendant must file a brief with the court which explains the grounds for the appeal and suggests the result that the appellate court should reach.
3. Oral Argument: The defendant and the state appear before the appellate court and present oral arguments regarding the appeal. At this hearing, judges may ask questions of both sides.
4. Decision: After the oral arguments, the appellate court will render a decision.
If you choose to appeal a criminal conviction, you must prove that there were mistakes in the legal process or in the way the law was applied in your case. An appeal isn’t simply a “do-over.”
WHAT IF YOU PLED GUILTY OR ACCEPTED A PLEA BARGAIN?
It is substantially more difficult in this state to appeal a conviction that is the result of your own guilty plea. To be frank, there are virtually no circumstances that allow you to appeal a guilty plea.
When you enter a guilty plea in this state, the judge is required to explain that by entering your plea, you are waiving a number of rights – including your right to appeal your conviction.
If you can somehow prove that you were misinformed or that you misunderstood the consequences of entering a guilty plea or accepting a plea deal, you may be allowed to pursue an appeal.
If you believe that you misunderstood or that you were misinformed at the time you entered your plea, speak to your appeals attorney, and adhere to his or her advice.
AREN’T SOME APPEALS AUTOMATIC?
Whether you pled guilty or you were found guilty by a jury, no criminal convictions are appealed automatically in the state of Washington.
You must start the appeal process with a defense attorney’s help, and you must specifically and clearly tell your attorney to file a notice of appeal – or find another attorney to file the notice.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a lawyer’s failure to file a notice of appeal may not constitute ineffective legal assistance – if a defendant did not plainly express a desire to appeal.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO APPEAL A CONVICTION?
In the state of Washington, you will need to have a defense lawyer with appeals experience who will file a notice of appeal on your behalf within thirty days of your conviction.
That means you will need to launch the appeal process immediately after a conviction. But don’t think that because you must act quickly, an appellate court will also act quickly. It won’t.
The appeals process is exceedingly time-consuming. Most appeals take from one to two years from the notice of appeal until the final decision is rendered.
WILL YOU NEED TO BE REPRESENTED BY A DIFFERENT ATTORNEY?
Appeals require a different set of legal skills, so if your trial attorney has no appeals experience, you’ll need a lawyer who has that experience – and a record of success – in the appellate courts.
Because they work to persuade jurors rather than lawyers or judges, criminal trial attorneys are skilled in translating the law into terms that everyone can understand.
Appeals attorneys instead engage in extensive writing and legal research. They frequently argue complicated legal doctrines, not before jurors, but before a judge or a panel of judges.
A lawyer prepares for an appeal hearing by scrutinizing the trial transcript and basing his or her written brief and oral arguments on that official record.
HOW DOES AN APPELLATE COURT WORK?
The next step is scheduling a date for the appellate court hearing. A defendant should understand that he or she will not be allowed to introduce any new evidence or try a new defense strategy.
Appellate judges are concerned exclusively with the trial transcript.
That’s where they look to ensure that the jury’s verdict was (or was not) the correct verdict, that a fair trial was (or was not) conducted, and that a defendant’s rights were (or were not) protected.
After hearing the oral arguments, appellate judges will then issue an opinion which states their reasons for either granting or rejecting your appeal.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN YOU APPEAL A CONVICTION?
When rendering a decision regarding an appeal, appellate courts have three options:
1. The appellate court can affirm the conviction and reject the appeal. If your appeal is rejected, speak with your attorney about the next step – appealing to a higher court.
2. An appellate judge can remand the case back to the trial court for additional proceedings – for example, if you were properly convicted but improperly sentenced.
3. An appellate judge can reverse the conviction and return the case to the trial court for a new trial.
If you appeal a criminal conviction in the state of Washington, you must have a skilled Seattle criminal defense attorney – with substantial appellate experience – advocating on your behalf.
If you’ve missed the thirty-day deadline for filing a notice of appeal, speak to a defense lawyer about having your conviction expunged or having your record sealed, and consider those options.