State Court Criminal Appeals

A criminal case in Georgia generally begins in one of our state’s 157 county court systems. Each county generally has a Superior Court (where felony cases are heard), a State Court (which has jurisdiction to consider misdemeanor violations), and a Municipal or City Court (which is the place where traffic violations and other less serious matters often are prosecuted).

If a person has been convicted after a trial in one of the county court systems, there are a number of procedures that can be used to challenge, or “appeal”, the conviction. First, the Defendant has the right to file what we call a “Motion for New Trial.” This is an important procedure under Georgia law. For one thing, it is basically a second chance to convince the trial judge that there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction. Additionally, the Motion for New Trial procedure can be used to re-argue some of the points that were brought up at trial. If the defense attorney is convinced that the judge made a mistake, he or she can once again bring the issue up when litigating the Motion for New Trial. Finally, many times we get involved after other lawyers mishandled a criminal case. Every Defendant is entitled, pursuant to the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, to “effective assistance” of counsel. If we are brought in early enough in the process, we can use the Motion for New Trial as the method for challenging the performance of the earlier attorney who may have made mistakes that prejudiced the client. On the other hand, under Georgia law, if the same lawyer who tried the case stays on during the Motion for New Trial and later appellate proceedings, then there cannot be a challenge to that attorney’s performance during the direct appeal.

Even if the judge refuses to grant the Motion for New Trial, Defendants convicted of a crime in Georgia have two more chances on direct appeal. First, most appeals in criminal cases go to the Georgia Court of Appeals, in that every person in Georgia has the right under the law to challenge his or her conviction. Most matters in the Georgia Court of Appeals are litigated by having the appellate lawyer file a “brief”. This is a concise written explanation of why the attorney believes that his or her client did not get a fair trial or was not guilty of the crime. Once in a while, the Court of Appeals has “oral arguments”, where the attorneys make presentations to the three judges who will decide the case. Second, even if the Court of Appeals will not reverse the conviction, the Defendant then can ask the Georgia Supreme Court to look at the case. This is called requesting a “writ of certiorari”, which is an old Latin phrase meaning "to be informed of, or to be made certain in regard to". It is also the name given to certain appellate proceedings for re-examination of actions of a trial court, or inferior appeals court. There is no right to have the Supreme Court hear a case. Instead, the Supreme Court generally grants review only in matters involving new or unique legal issues.

Even a person who has pled guilty occasionally has the right to appeal in the Georgia court system. Georgia law has several methods by which a person who pleads guilty to a crime can request the right to withdraw or back out of that guilty plea. If the judge refuses to let the client take back his or her plea, the Defendant then can appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeals, and can argue that the original Judge was wrong for not permitting the Defendant to take back his or her guilty plea.

At Kish & Lietz, we have handled numerous Georgia criminal appeals. We take great pride in being aggressive and successful appellate lawyers. We have worked hard and long to refine our research and writing skills. We make it a regular practice to keep up on changes in Georgia law, to understand recent developments in procedures, and pay attention to rulings issued by the Georgia appellate courts to see if we can use such matters to our client’s advantage. Over the years, we have obtained significant relief for clients convicted in the Georgia court system.

The appellate process can be extremely complex in the Georgia appellate courts. Paul Kish and Carl Lietz have handled many 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.