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What are some points I should know about criminal appeals?

If you pay attention to the news, you have likely heard about appeals being filed in criminal cases. If you are currently facing a criminal case, or if you have been convicted of a crime, you might have some questions about appeals. Understanding some basic points about appeals might help you determine a course of action.

Who can file an appeal in a criminal case?

In most cases, only the defendant can file an appeal in a criminal case. If the appeal is about the conviction, this is always the case. That means that the prosecution can't appeal if a person is found not guilty, but the defendant can appeal if he or she is found guilty. If the appeal is regarding the sentencing, it is sometimes possible for the prosecution to file an appeal.

What happens during an appeal?

The exact course of action during an appeal can depend on the appellate court's wishes and procedures. Generally, an appeal is handled on paper. Both sides of the case submit written briefs that are considered by the appellate court. If the court desires, oral arguments are presented. These arguments are short and are meant to focus on the legal basis of the appeal.

Can I appeal to the Supreme Court?

It is often said that someone will "take it all the way to the Supreme Court." While that is a noble thought, it is one that might not occur. Once an appeal has gone through all the lower court appeals, it is possible to appeal to the Supreme Court. Appealing to the Supreme Court doesn't mean that the case will be heard. The Supreme Court picks and chooses which cases to hear based on predetermined criteria.

Source: United States Courts, "Appeals," accessed Aug. 04, 2016

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