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Criminal Law Cases, Legal Errors and Appeals

1An appeal of a lower court decision is a legal process by which a higher court is asked to review the trial court’s record and rule on the legal issues raised by the appellant (a party to a case–in a criminal case, it is usually the defendant).

The Circuit Criminal Department handles all appeals for convictions and court rulings from the Circuit Criminal and County Criminal Courts for Palm Beach County’s 15th Judicial Circuit.

All correspondence regarding a County or Circuit Criminal appeal can be sent to::

Clerk & Comptroller

Circuit Criminal Department

P.O. Box 2906

West Palm Beach, FL 33402-2906

Attention: Appeals Clerk

A Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days from the date of the conviction or the court ruling that is being appealed.

Grounds for Appeal

Potential grounds for appeal in a criminal case include legal error, juror misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel. Legal errors may result from improperly admitted evidence, incorrect jury instructions, or lack of sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict. To grant the appeal, the appellate court must find that these errors affected the outcome of the case. If the errors would not have changed the verdict, they are considered harmless. A conviction may also be appealed if the defendant reasonably believes that the jury conducted itself improperly during deliberations or the trial itself. Jury misconduct includes the use of experiments, drug or alcohol abuse during deliberations or trial, and improper communications between jurors and witnesses or counsel. Finally, criminal defendants often appeal their cases when they feel that they were not provided with adequate representation. To succeed in an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendants must typically prove that but for their counsel’s actions, the outcome of the case would have been different.

Most decisions of a state or federal trial court (or an agency) are subject to review by an appeals court, including decisions regarding accident and injury cases. Whether the appeal concerns a judge’s order or a final judgment entered by a jury, an appeals court reviews what happened in proceedings below for any errors of law. If the court finds an error that contributed to the trial court’s decision, the appeals court will reverse that decision. The lawyers for the parties submit briefs to the court and may be granted oral argument. Once an appeals court has made its decision, the opportunity for further appeals is limited. The number of parties filing appeals has risen substantially in the last few decades, causing the state and federal court systems to implement changes in an effort to keep up.

Trials vs. Appeals

A trial and an appeal have a few similarities, but also many important differences. At trial, the parties present their cases, calling witnesses for testimony and presenting other pieces of evidence, such as documents, photographs, reports, surveys, diaries, blueprints, etc. The jury weighs this evidence and determines the facts of the case, that is, what they believe actually happened. A jury is therefore sometimes referred to as the finder of fact. The judge controls the activities in the courtroom and makes all the legal decisions, such as ruling on motions and on objections raised by the attorneys. The judge is often called the finder of law. If the parties have chosen a bench trial, rather than a jury trial, the judge will make both findings of fact and findings of law.

An appeal is a review of the trial court’s application of the law. There is no jury in an appeal, nor do the lawyers present witnesses or, typically, other forms of evidence. The court will accept the facts as they were revealed in the trial court, unless a factual finding is clearly against the weight of the evidence.

Another difference between a trial and an appeal is the number of judges involved. A single judge presides over a trial. An appeal, however, is heard by several judges at once. How many depends on the jurisdiction. At the initial appeals court level, courts may have from three to a few dozen judges. Yet on the larger courts, the full number of judges seldom hear claims together. Instead, appeals are typically heard by panels, often comprised of three judges. In rare instances, the full court may decide to grant a motion for rehearing “en banc,” in which event all the judges on the appeals court hear the case together and issue a new decision. Supreme courts, at the state and federal level, have from five to nine judges, referred to as justices.

The criminal defense law firm of Andrew Stine, P.A. combines the nationally recognized criminal defense practice of trial and appellate attorney Andrew Stine, creating an international practice encompassing the defense of individuals and corporations facing serious criminal charges in Florida, across the United States and around the world. When you retain our law firm, you don’t simply retain a criminal defense attorney – you retain an experienced criminal defense law team. Andew Stine and his team have worked together for years, successfully representing clients in virtually every type of criminal case. We represent individuals and organizations vigorously, with individual attention and a passionate respect for due process, through each stage and every aspect of your case.

Call us and put this team to work for you or your loved one.

Free consultation 24/7: Call West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine, P.A. at 561.880.4300. Se habla español.

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