Common Questions About Appeals

What Happens When I Appeal a Criminal Case?

A person convicted of a crime has the right to appeal. This means if you are convicted of a crime, you have the right to ask a higher court to review the lower court’s ruling. The first appeal in a criminal case is known as a “direct appeal,” which a criminal defendant may file after he or she is sentenced.

In Nebraska state courts, a criminal defendant has 30 days to appeal the sentence from the date of the conviction. In federal court, a criminal defendant has 14 days to file an appeal.

An appeal is a written notice to the court indicating the criminal defendant’s desire to appeal the case. The criminal defendant must file notice of the intent to appeal and must pay a filing fee, unless he or she is found to be indigent.

What Happens If I Win on Appeal?

A common misconception many people have about appellate courts is that if you win on appeal, your case is done. Unfortunately, this is not true. Often, when a criminal defendant wins an appeal due to prosecutorial conduct, an erroneous evidentiary decision by a judge, or a myriad of other mistakes, the criminal case does not go away. Instead, the case is remanded to the lower court with the instructions to fix the defect, which usually means a new trial.

When a defendant appeals based on insufficient evidence and the appellate court finds there was insufficient evidence to convict, the case will not be retried. The double jeopardy clause of the fifth amendment of the US Constitution prevents someone from being tried for the same crime twice. If there is insufficient evidence to prove criminal charges at trial, those charges will not be tried again.

However, winning a case based on insufficient evidence does not immediately dispose of the case. When a defendant wins, sometimes the attorney general’s office will either ask for a petition for further review by a higher appellate court or for reconsideration by the court that made the decision. For example, if a criminal defendant wins a case on appeal at the Nebraska Court of Appeals, the attorney general’s office may petition the Nebraska supreme court for further review of the decision and ask that it be overturned. In a motion for reconsideration, if a criminal defendant won a case at the court of appeals and the attorney general’s office believed the court’s decision was wrong, it could ask the court of appeals to reconsider its decision.

Why Appeal a Criminal Case?

There are several good reasons to appeal. For many people, the deciding issue is a lengthy prison sentence. But those who receive a sentence of probation and face no prison time may still decide to appeal because the non-judicial consequences of a criminal conviction are life-altering. For example, a person who receives a sentence of probation on a felony conviction will still lose the right to possess a firearm or hold public office. What’s worse is that a felony conviction will often cost a person his or her current job and may even prevent future employment. One Berry Law client explained that a felony conviction would cost him several millions of dollars over his lifetime because he would never be able to work in the same profession again. In that instance, we knew that if we did not win at trial, our client would appeal. While not every person convicted of a crime wants to appeal, everyone has the right to do so.

If you are facing criminal charges, please contact Berry Law today.

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