Understanding The Criminal Appeals Process

Understanding The Criminal Appeals Process

by Jun 18, 2019

Generally speaking, once you’ve been convicted of a crime, that’s it. Whatever punishment the judge and jury decide on is what your punishment will be. In rare instances however, you may be able to appeal the decision and have your sentence reduced or overturned entirely. While this doesn’t happen often, it’s an option that anyone going through the justice system should be aware of.

What Is An Appeal?

An appeal is the process of asking a higher court to review your case because you believe that key legal mistakes were made that affected the outcome. An appeal is not the same thing as asking for a new trial.

An appeals court will not consider any new evidence, and it’s only function is to determine whether your conviction and/or sentence were reached in error. An appeals court has the power to decide if your case should be dismissed entirely, re-tried, or re-sentenced.

In California, an appeal is automatically granted in capital offense cases.

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How Soon Can A Sentence Be Appealed?

For both state and federal cases, the courts require a defendant to notify them of their intent to appeal soon after a conviction or sentence.

However, even though the court must be notified of your intent to appeal right away, the appeals process is typically very long, and it may take several months before an appellate court takes up your case.

While your attorney will know exactly what to do at each stage of the appeals process, here’s an outline of how it generally works in California:

  1. File a notice of appeal
  2. Prepare the record on appeal
  3. File superior court exhibits
  4. Correct or augment the record
  5. File certificate of interested entities and persons
  6. Begin briefing process
  7. File and/or answer motions (if applicable)
  8. Conduct oral arguments
  9. Justices discuss the case and issue a ruling

Again, each of these steps will be handled and explained in more detail by your attorney.

Trusting Your Lawyer

It’s important to keep in mind that even if your case is appealed, that’s not a guarantee that your sentence will be reduced or overturned. Many cases that go to an appeals court are upheld, which means the appellate court agrees with the decision made by the state or federal court.

When going through the appeals process, you need to trust your attorney and do everything they say. While most of the process will be out of your hands, a good attorney will keep you apprised of your appeal at each stage.

To learn more about the appeals process, or to get help with your case, please contact our offices today.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

We provide representation in California State and Federal Courts. We accept most major credit cards for your convenience.

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