Criminal court cases are long and arduous processes. Defendants must go through the ups and downs of a trial with their freedom hanging in the balance. Hearing the word “guilty” at the end of the process is a significant blow. However, the verdict is not the end.
The criminal justice system’s rules are designed to give defendants every chance to prove their innocence and ensure a fair trial. Appeals are a major tool in the criminal defense playbook. After a guilty verdict, defendants can appeal their case to a higher court. The higher court will review the case to ensure the defendant’s trial was fair. On appeal, charges can potentially be reduced or dismissed.
An experienced Denver appeals lawyer at Gerash Steiner Blanton, P.C., can help you navigate the appeals process after a guilty verdict. It is important to emphasize up front that appeals are a long shot. However, Gerash Steiner Blanton can aggressively advocate for your rights and fight for a fair process. We proudly carry on the legacy of Walter L. Gerash, the father of one of our partners and a leading figure in Colorado’s criminal defense history. Our firm has a 5 out of 5 AV Rating for our ethical standards and legal skills and was selected for the list of Colorado Super Lawyers. Contact Gerash Steiner Blanton today; we can fiercely advocate for you throughout the Denver appeals process.
What Is an Appeal?
An appeal is a formal process of asking a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court. Appeals are not re-trials or new trials, and defendants are not allowed to produce new evidence. Instead, the appeals court will examine the trial record to determine if the lower court made any mistakes.
Key Terms to Know
Before we examine how the appeals process works, it may benefit you to understand the following key terms:
- Appellant/petitioner: The party who files an appeal
- Appellee/respondent: The party who receives the appeal
- Notice of appeal: The document that the appellant files to begin an appeal
- Oral arguments: Before making a decision, the appeals court sometimes gives each party’s attorney about 15 minutes to present an oral argument and answer questions
- Brief: A written argument consisting of the appellant’s view of the facts and arguments that support their efforts to reverse the lower court’s judgment
- Harmless errors: Errors that did not impact the trial jury’s judgment
- Reversible errors: Errors or law that are deemed harmful
- Majority opinion: An opinion that the majority of the court agrees with
- Dissenting opinion: An opinion issued by judges who disagree with a decision
When Can a Verdict Be Appealed?
Defendants can file an appeal within the first 35 days after either the entry of the judgment or the denial of a post-trial motion, whichever is later. To appeal a case, there must be a legal issue for the defendant to contest. Solely disagreeing with the outcome is not grounds for an appeal. For example, arguing that the trial judge misrepresented a question of law is a valid reason to appeal a case. Further, the issue must have somehow affected the outcome of the case.
If you are unsure whether you have grounds to appeal your case, a skilled Denver appellate attorney at Gerash Steiner Blanton can help.
Possible Outcomes of the Appeals Process
It is crucial to remember an appeal is not a re-trial. The higher court will conduct a limited review and is limited in the remedies it can provide.
On appeal, the higher court might:
- Uphold the lower court’s finding,
- Remand the case back to the lower court for additional proceedings,
- Modify or correct the lower court’s judgment, or
- Require a new trial to be held.
If the appellate court upholds the lower court’s findings, defendants have the option to file a new appeal to an even higher court.
What to Expect During the Appeals Process
The appeals process is relatively rigid, and the overall procedure is predictable. An experienced Denver appellate attorney at Gerash Steiner Blanton can help guide you through every step. In most cases, the appeals process plays out as follows:
- The defendant decides to file an appeal.
- The defendant (who at this point is called the appellant) files a notice of appeal. This starts the time period by which they must file their brief.
- The appellant files their brief.
- The appellee (the opposing party) responds with an answering brief.
- The appellant responds to the appellee’s brief.
- The court schedules a hearing for oral arguments.
- Both sides present their case during the oral arguments hearing.
- The appellate court decides on the merits of the appeal.
- The appellate court issues a written decision stating their judgment in the appeal.
- If the appellate court sides with the appellee, the case is over unless the appellant wishes to appeal to a higher court.
- If the appellate court sides with the appellant, the case will be returned to the lower courts.
Though the process is predictable, each step requires many detailed decisions. It is crucial to have the guidance of an experienced Denver appeals attorney at every step.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Common Grounds for an Appeal in Colorado?
Appeals are a limited review of a trial court’s findings. As such, the acceptable legal grounds for an appeal are limited. Common ground for appeal include:
- Improper admission or exclusion of evidence,
- Violations of the defendant’s rights,
- Procedural errors that affected the outcome of the trial,
- Improper sentencing,
- Racial bias or bias based on another protected trait,
- Jury misconduct,
- Prosecutorial misconduct,
- Significant errors of law, and
- Inadequate representation.
One of the most common grounds for appeal is the improper admission or exclusion of evidence. The rules of evidence in criminal procedures are incredibly complicated, and mistakes are often made at the trial stage. In all cases, the appellant must show that there is a reasonable chance that the error affected the outcome of the trial.
How Long Does an Appeal Take?
It is difficult to determine the exact length of a given appeal. That being said, the appeals process moves slowly. Judges often have many appeals to review, and it can take a significant amount of time to get to yours. Further, once a judge does get to a specific appeal, they may need more information which will increase the amount of time the appeal takes.
If My Appeal Is Granted, What Do I Do Next?
What you do next will depend on the appellate court’s specific ruling. For example, if the appeals court grants a new trial, the trial process will start from the beginning. If the case is remanded to the trial court, expect further proceedings as an extension of the original trial. An experienced Denver appellate attorney can guide you through your choices.
Gerash Steiner Blanton Can Help
The attorneys at Gerash Steiner Blanton have an in-depth understanding of the appeals process. We can steadfastly fight for you and offer valuable guidance throughout the process. If you need a Denver appeals lawyer, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.