In my practice as a Miami criminal appeals lawyer, I often find that clients do not understand the true purpose of an appeal. They often times think it is to present new evidence or restate their defense – however this is not the case.
The purpose of an appeal is not to re-litigate the facts of a case after someone has already been convicted – especially after trial. Courts of appeal do not conduct additional trials and they do not give defendants another chance to present additional defenses, new witnesses or new evidence. The role of an appellate court is not to determine if someone is guilty or not guilty.
Appeals courts will review a case to make sure the trial court did not make any mistakes, to make sure that the defendant was afforded due process, was afforded representation by competent counsel, and was afforded the right to remain silent as well as the right to present his own defense – among other issues.
This is why appellate courts are also referred to as “reviewing courts” (since their job is to review legal errors made in the underlying case).
In some situations, a Miami criminal appeals lawyer can convince an appellate court to reverse a ruling by a trial judge if that ruling was made in error or due to an abuse of discretion. In other cases, guilty verdicts can be overturned due to prosecutor misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, or error by the trial judge, just to name a few. In yet other cases, a criminal appeals lawyer may convince an appellate court to discharge a defendant from prosecution when his/her speedy trial rights are violated.
In some cases, a criminal defense attorney may also file for post-conviction relief because his/her client was given an illegal sentence or because the client did not get enough credit for time served. Post-conviction relief is warranted for a number of reasons, which will be discussed in greater detail in this section. For example, post-conviction relief may also include motions for new trial and motions to interview jurors.
Unlike litigation on the trial level, a criminal defense attorney fights for his/her client by looking backwards in time. Criminal lawyers who do appeals love this aspect of criminal law because you get to tear apart a case and figure out what went wrong.
In my opinion, the best appeals lawyers combine three skills to be successful. They are as follows:
- The best appeals lawyers are great detectives who are tear apart a case and identify the legal issues.
- The best appeals lawyers know the law, know the rules of procedure, and know how try a case in court.
- The best appeals lawyers are masters of written and oral argument.
Spotting the legal issues and developing a winning defense is only part of the battle. The best criminal lawyers need to communicate your issues and arguments in a convincing manner to the appeals judges who need to hear them.
Knowing how to write effectively is extremely important. In fact, it is a more important skill for an appeals lawyer than oral argument because all appeals begin and are communicated as written legal briefs. In fact, most appeals do not even proceed to oral arguments and those that do, are only given 20 minutes to present their case.
As a Miami criminal appeals lawyer I cannot reiterate enough how effective an appeal can be when your case presents a bonafide issue. In many cases, defendants who have lost hope were given a second chance. People have been taken off of death row and even released from prison due to effective appeals. No matter how good or bad your case may have been on the trial level, an appeals lawyer may still be able to help you.