An appeal is vehicle for moving a case from a lower court to a higher court in an attempt to correct an error that occurred in the lower court. For example, once a case is concluded in the trial court, an individual generally then usually has a statutory right to appeal, which transfers the case to the Court of Appeals and then, under certain circumstances, on to the Supreme Court.
As many people already know, there are two separate court systems in the United States. First, there is a complete system of courts in each of the 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Second, the federal courts can also be found in all 50 states, in Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia (along with some “Territorial Courts in places like Guam and other areas under the jurisdiction of the United States Government.) When a criminal case starts in one of the state court systems, the appeals process works its way through the courts of that particular state. Most of our state court appeals we work on are here in Georgia. On the other hand, we also handle lots of federal criminal cases. A federal appeal flows through one of the eleven federal courts of appeals (actually, there are twelve federal Courts of Appeals, but one of them does not handle criminal cases).
In any criminal case, the issues that a qualified criminal lawyer may raise on appeal can focus on a number of different areas. For instance, depending on the circumstances presented, appeals in criminal cases can include challenges to a lower court’s ruling on a pretrial motion, such as a motion to suppress or dismiss, claims that a criminal trial was unfair, arguments that the prosecutor failed to prove an individual’s guilt at a trial, or challenges to the ultimate sentence imposed at a sentencing hearing. Furthermore, after the case is concluded on direct appeal, an additional vehicle exists system for bringing a post-conviction or habeas corpus action, which is also know as a collateral attack.
People sometimes get confused about what happens in an appeal. For the most part, an appeal is not an attempt to argue that the defendant is innocent of the crime. Instead, most appeals are directed toward the issue of whether the trial judge made a mistake or an error in the proceedings in the lower court. If we can convince the court of appeals that such an error took place, the defendant’s conviction or sentence will be “reversed and remanded.” This means the case goes back to the trial judge, and the second time around we often can get a better result for our client.
While most of the time we are looking for an “error” in the lower court, on occasion some appeals do deal with the issue of whether there was “sufficient evidence.” In these types of appeals we basically agree with all the evidence that the prosecutor submitted to the trial court. However, in these types of appeals we argue that, even accepting all the evidence as being true, there still was not enough facts to support a conviction.
Doing a good job on an appeal requires that the attorney study what we call the “record” in a case. The record is generally the docket of everything that happened in the lower court, copies of all pleadings and motions, and transcripts from the most important hearings or the trial itself. Plowing through the record can be a very time-consuming effort, sometimes requiring hundreds of hours of careful study.
A criminal defense lawyer who handles appeals must know the intricacies of procedural and substantive law, in order to be successful. Knowing the law, however, is only half the battle; the lawyer must also be able to communicate the issues on appeal clearly in writing, and be able to present those issues to the Court of Appeals orally, if necessary, and withstand the tough questions that often come at oral argument.
At Kish & Lietz, we pride ourselves on being outstanding appellate lawyers. We both began our careers as law clerks for prominent federal judges, jobs that hone the research and writing skills of students who often graduate at the top of their law school classes. In addition, unlike many lawyers, we have significant experience in not only handling cases in the federal and state trial courts, we also have been retained many times in those cases all the way through the appeal process in the Court of Appeals, and often on to the United States Supreme Court. Through the years, we have handled hundreds of appeals and have obtained significant relief for many individuals and families.
The appellate process can be extremely complex in both federal and state court. Paul Kish and Carl Lietz have handled hundreds of appeals and have obtained significant relief for many clients. Our experience will guide you or your family member through the process of appealing his or her criminal case. Feel free to call us today at (404) 588-3991, or contact us online to schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you have an appeal, feel free to call us today at (404) 588-3991, or contact us online to schedule an appointment for a consultation. Our experience will guide you and your family through the complex process of appealing a matter in either state or federal court.