Our firm handles all types of criminal appeals in California.  An appeal is an attempt to overturn a conviction based upon legal errors that may have occurred that may allow the conviction to be attacked.  A successful appeal can result in the suppression of evidence that was admitted at trial, a reduction in the sentence or other penalties, or the granting of a new trial.  Furthermore, California law allows for bail to be set pending appeal so that the person facing incarceration may remain free while the appeal is heard.

What do I need to know about the criminal appeals process in Los Angeles?

Definition of an Appeal

An appeal is a request to a higher court to review the decision made in a completed trial or other completed criminal proceeding.

What Issues Can Be Appealed?

Although the appellate court does not re-hear testimony and decide facts, it does have the right to decide whether the Superior Court Judge applied the law correctly in any given case.  Common issues that are the subject of an appeal include a claim that the judge made an incorrect ruling on the admissibility of certain evidence, that he incorrectly applied the law, that he made or allowed an improper jury instruction, that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict, or that the defendant had ineffective assistance of counsel.

What does the Appeals Process Involve?

First, a written Notice of Appeal is filed with the clerk of the court in which the appealed proceeding took place.  In criminal and juvenile cases, the transcript (written record of testimony and evidence) from the appealed proceeding is prepared by the court automatically.  Once this record has been filed with the Court of Appeals, the parties are notified.

From the date upon which the records and transcripts were filed, the party appealing (“appellant”) has a specified period of time within which to file an “Opening Brief”.  This document is a summary of the facts and legal arguments which appellant contends to support their position that the trial court made an error, which should be reversed.  The prosecutor or other person opposing the appeal (“respondent”) has the right to file its own brief in opposition (“Opposition Brief”).  The appellant may thereafter file a “Reply Brief”, which addresses the arguments made in the Opposition Brief.

Once all briefs have been filed, the Court sets a hearing date for the “oral argument”.  This is the time the parties are allowed to come before a panel of judges and argue the case.  After oral argument, the Court renders a decision in writing to the parties.

What is a Writ?

A writ is an order from a higher court to a lower court judge or a governmental official.  It can be used for issues for which an appeal does not provide a sufficient remedy.  One of the most common types of “Writs” in the criminal context is a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which challenges the legality of the defendant’s imprisonment.  The State Constitution of California and the United States Constitution both provide for Writs of Habeas Corpus (therefore there are both State Habeas Corpus Petitions and Federal Habeas Corpus petitions).  A Habeas Corpus petition may order a prison or warden to free the person or to end improper jail conditions that violate the person’s civil rights.

Are There Other Types of Motions Which Provide a Remedy to a Defendant to Dismiss the Case or Obtain a New Trial?

Yes. These include the following:

(1) Motion for Acquittal: A request for the judge to decide that there is not enough evidence to sustain the charges against the defendant.  Depending upon certain court’s rules and whether the matter is a judge or jury trial, this motion may be made either after the prosecution has presented all its evidence and rested its case or at the conclusion of both the prosecution’s and the defense’s presentation of their evidence.

(2) Motion for a New Trial: This is a request for the judge to declare a mistrial and grant a new trial.  It can be made on various grounds, including the improper conduct of the prosecution or the improper introduction of certain evidence.

Read more about the criminal appeals process in the following blog posts:

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