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What Is an Appeal?

When we think of an appeal, we might imagine the federal Supreme Court dealing the final blow to a law they argue is unconstitutional. While many appeals we see in the news stem from civil cases, there are similar concepts and procedures for criminal cases. This brief post will give you an overview of how the criminal appeals process works in Texas.

If youve been convicted of a crime in McKinney and youre considering filing an appeal, the criminal defense attorneys at Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian are ready to advocate for you. Our founding partner is a former county prosecutor, and we know the strategies the other side of the aisle uses. If a trial court wrongly convicted you, let us fight for your rights and dignity. Contact our firm at (972) 369-0577 today for a free case review.

What Is a Criminal Appeal?

In the most fundamental sense, a criminal appeal is when someone previously convicted of a crime asks a higher court to review their previous trial. These appeals will center on the trial’s procedure instead of the case’s facts, which are for a judge or jury to decide.

Unlike civil cases, where either side can ask an appellate court to review a trial, almost all criminal appeals originate from the defendants legal team after a guilty verdict. If a prosecutor were to appeal an acquittal, it would violate the defendant’s Fifth Amendment right against double jeopardy (being tried again for the same criminal charges in the same jurisdiction after an acquittal.)

There are some circumstances, many rare in practice, where prosecutors may request an appeal:

  • Judgment notwithstanding the verdict This happens when a judge acquits a defendant despite the jury returning a guilty verdict. The judge may believe that the jury did not follow their instructions correctly or that there was a flagrant lack of evidence for the jury to convict.
  • Sentence appeal – The prosecution seeks a different, usually longer sentence in these appeals. They might argue that the trial judges sentence is not allowed under current laws or guidelines.

Why Defendants Might Appeal

In asking for an appeal, the defense may consider the following circumstances:

  • Improper jury conduct – If the jury did not properly follow the judges instructions during deliberations, the defendant may have grounds for an appeal.
  • Inadequate counsel – If the defendant can prove that their cases outcome would have been different under a different legal team, they could have a justification to appeal.
  • Improper interpretation of the law – If the judge or jury did not correctly interpret the law, leading to an improper conviction, the defense may request an appeal.

Where a Criminal Appeal Goes

The path of a criminal case on appeal varies depending on the state. Some state appellate courts hear both civil and criminal matters, while other states have separate civil and criminal appeals courts. Texas lies somewhere in between those two groups of states. Appeals will first go to the state courts of appeals that hear both civil and criminal matters. If an appeal is unsuccessful, it can go to a separate criminal supreme court.”

Step 1: Court of Appeals

Your criminal appeal begins when you petition the appropriate district of the Texas Court of Appeals. Each of the fourteen districts serves different locations within the state, and your appeal will go to the district serving the trial courts area. If the court chooses to hear your appeal, each side of the case will present their oral arguments before a three-judge panel, answering questions from the judges as required. If your appeal is not successful, you can request a rehearing.

Step 2: Court of Criminal Appeals

After the intermediate appellate court denies a rehearing request, you may petition the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the last-resort criminal court in the state. The structure of a hearing in this court is similar to that of the intermediate court. However, the nine-judge panel does not choose to hear every appeal beyond their legal obligations.

Step 3: The US Supreme Court

Once you have exhausted your options in Texas state appellate system, the final step is the federal Supreme Court. Criminal cases arriving at this step may present extraordinary questions about the constitutionality of a particular aspect of legal or police procedure.

Special Circumstances of Criminal Appeals in Texas

There are some exceptions to the typical Texas criminal appeals process. They include:

  • Death penalty cases – An appeal in a capital case goes directly to the Court of Criminal Appeals, bypassing intermediate courts.
  • Juvenile cases – The final appeal in a criminal case involving a juvenile defendant goes to the Texas Supreme Court rather than the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Contact Our Criminal Appeal Firm

If a trial court improperly convicted you of a crime in McKinney, you may face severe penalties you do not deserve. You have only 30 days to file your first request for an appeal or retrial, so dont wait to consult the Collin County criminal appeal attorneys at Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian. Call us today at (972) 369-0577 for a free case review.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : July 26, 2022