If defendants are not happy with the results of their criminal trials, they may think that an appeal is the automatic next step. However, a defendant may not request an appeal just because the verdict was not pleasing.
There are specific reasons why a judge may grant an appeal, and then there are certain steps for the process.
Acceptable grounds for an appeal
According to FindLaw, an appeal is only valid if there was a substantial error made in the trial. One basis for appeal is if the court made a plain error, or serious mistake in regard to the law that affects the defendant’s basic rights. Another basis is that the judge abused his or her power in a way that the facts in the case did not warrant.
A defendant may request an appeal on the basis that the defense attorney did not adequately represent the defendant resulting in an unfair trial. The final basis is if there was an insufficient weight of evidence.
The appeal process
According to the American Bar Association, the courts do not examine new evidence or witnesses during an appeal; rather, they review the arguments and evidence of the original trial. The appellant, or the party asking for the appeal, files a notice of appeal and then must file a written argument outlining the facts relating to the appeal request. The appellee must then respond with his or own brief.
The court may make a decision based solely on the written briefs, or it may request oral arguments. If the appeal court judges reverse the original verdict, they may order the lower court to make a judgment modification, hold a new trial or accept additional evidence in the case. If the appeals court agrees with the original verdict, the case is over unless the defendant chooses to appeal to a higher court.