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Can defendants appeal criminal convictions and sentences?

Being found guilty in a court of law is an experience that nobody looks forward to. If you are found guilty and aren't guilty, you might wonder if you can do anything about the conviction. The same is true about the sentence that you receive if you think that it isn't appropriate. The answer to whether you can do anything or not is possibly. You might be able to file an appeal in your case, but that hinges on various factors.

Who can appeal decisions in a criminal case?

An appeal regarding the verdict of the case can only be filed by the defendant. That means that a not guilty verdict wouldn't be able to be appealed by the prosecution. An appeal regarding a sentence can be filed by either side of the case.

How are appeals handled?

If you need to appeal a criminal conviction or a sentence, you will file an appeal with the court that is just higher than the court in which you were convicted and sentenced. An appeal is done through a written document, which is known as a brief. Once the court makes a decision, that decision is final unless you appeal to the court that is higher than the one that you filed that appeal with. You can do this until you end up with an appeal filed with the United States Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court likely isn't going to be required to hear your case.

Will I have to stand before the appellate court?

Generally, appeals are handled using only the written brief. There are instances in which oral arguments might be required. The appellate court decides when oral arguments are necessary. These are usually very short, such as 15 minutes or so.

Launching an appeal requires knowledge of the appeals process. This can vary from one court to another, so knowing how to handle each level of court is necessary.

Source: United States Courts, "Appeals," accessed Aug. 12, 2016

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