How to Win in Appellate Court
Being accused of a crime is a very serious matter. A conviction can bring heavy fines, jail time, and other penalties, as well as other consequences that can last far into the future. For the defendant in a criminal proceeding, the best result is clearly a dismissal of the charges or an acquittal. When a defendant is acquitted of all charges, this essentially ends the case, and the prosecution cannot file an appeal.
When things do not go the defendant’s way at the trial level, this does not necessarily mean the case is over. Sometimes, the result of a trial is unjust or unfair. And in such cases, a wrongfully convicted defendant has the right to appeal to a higher (appellate) court and ask them to review and reverse the decision of the lower court.
A successful appeal usually ends with the case being “remanded” or sent back to the lower court where the case originated. From there, you may end up with a new trial, or you may be able to negotiate a reduction or dismissal of charges, depending on the specifics of your case. There are also cases in which the appellate court may uphold the conviction but review and/or reduce the sentence. And in some rare cases, a successful appeal can end up getting the defendant released from jail.
Keys to Winning in Appellate Court
It is important to understand that appeals work differently than a criminal trial. The appellate court is not there to retry the case, but only to review the case for legal errors or misconduct that made the original trial unfair for the defense. No new testimony is given in an appellate case, and oral arguments are rare. The core of the argument is presented in written form, in what is known as the appellate brief.
So, first and foremost, if you are considering appealing a conviction, you need a defense lawyer who thoroughly understands the difference between criminal trials and appeals, and who has extensive experience achieving favorable results at the appellate level. Aside from choosing the right attorney, two of the most important elements of a winning appellate strategy are identifying strong grounds for an appeal and writing a winning appellate brief.
Potential Grounds for Appeal
Your lawyer will review the original case to identify any legal errors or misconduct that can form the basis for a successful appeal. Some common grounds for appeal include:
- Improperly admitted evidence;
- Improper denial of a motion to suppress evidence for illegal search and seizure;
- Improper jury instructions;
- Juror misconduct (e.g., jurors speaking to other jurors or outside people about the case);
- Prosecutorial misconduct (e.g., improper questioning of the defendant, intimidating witnesses, withholding exculpatory evidence, etc.);
- Lack of legally sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict.
Crafting a Winning Appellate Brief
Once strong grounds for an appeal had been established, they must be presented persuasively in the appellate brief. The brief will be reviewed by multiple parties, so it should be written in a way that will be easily understood by anyone who reads it.
The brief should be written in simple and clear language, and it should focus largely on the most compelling and persuasive arguments, laying out the top arguments right away in the introduction. In most cases, there are multiple legal errors that may have occurred. However, it is usually best to take focus primarily on the top arguments, tying them into one central theory or theme explaining how these issues produced a miscarriage of justice at the lower court and why the appellate court should act on the defendant’s behalf to remedy the situation.
Considering a Criminal Appeal in Kentucky? Contact Louisville Defense Attorney Ron Aslam
Winning an appeal is not easy. By nature, a higher court is going to be reluctant to change the outcome of the lower court proceeding; unless there is a legally valid reason to do so that is presented in a persuasive argument that is easy to understand. If you have been convicted of a crime in Kentucky and you want to appeal your conviction, you need a lawyer who knows how to win in the appellate court.
Attorney Ron Aslam has extensive experience and a strong track record of success at both the trial and appellate level. Ron is a former prosecutor who thoroughly understands the inner workings of a criminal proceeding from both sides of the fence. He can thoroughly evaluate your case to determine if it makes sense to file an appeal and, if so, the most effective strategy to achieve a favorable outcome in the appellate court.
To schedule an initial consultation with Attorney Ron Aslam, call us today at 502-581-1676. You may also message us through our online contact form or stop by our Louisville office in person at your convenience.