If the defendant believes that he has been wrongly convicted, or that the criminal sentencing was disproportionate to the offense, he receives an opportunity to appeal against the judgment. If the defendant had filed a guilty plea, which led to the conviction, he may have to seek “leave” to appeal the conviction. However, if the conviction is a result of a trial, the defendant obtains an absolute right to file an appeal.
The appeal does not amount to a re-trial, but it is a re-evaluation of the trial record to determine that the trial proceedings were conducted fairly.
Procedure of Appeal
The parties to an appeal are required to submit to the appellate court a written “brief.” The brief must be accompanied by a copy of the transcript of the trial court proceedings and any exhibits that may have been used during the trial. Depending on the nature of the case, the appellate court may schedule oral arguments. Such arguments are usually short in duration, and focus primarily on academic and legal aspects of the cases.
The appellate judge looks for any potential errors that may have altered the verdict. The judge will, however, disregard any “harmless errors” that could not have influenced the verdict. The judge will also disregard what he deems to be an error of the “trial strategy.”
Common Errors at Trial
Different types of errors may occur during a trial that may or may not affect the outcome of the case.
Basic Error: A crucial error that impacts the very basis of the case is called a basic or fundamental error. The court may consider such an error “in the interests of justice,” even when the defendant does not bring out the issue on appeal properly.
Harmful Error: An error that, according to the appellate court, had a probable impact or influenced the result of the trial is called a harmful error.
Invited Error: As the name suggests, an invited error may occur when the defendant himself asks the trial to court to pass a ruling, which is in fact erroneous. The defendant is not permitted to appeal the decision of the trial court on the basis of an invited error.
Harmless Error: If the appellate court arrives at a conclusion that a particular error had no impact on the trial’s outcome, it may be termed as a harmless error. For instance, in view of an overwhelming amount of evidence presented against a defendant, any submission of “hearsay” testimony may be regarded as a harmless error.
Reversible Error: If the appellate court decides to overturn the decision of the lower court due to an error, such an error is called or known as a reversible error.
If you have any questions on criminal appeals contact the Broward County Criminal Defense Attorneys at The William Moore Law Firm.