Criminal Appeals FAQs
Navigating the Texas criminal justice system can be confusing, especially when appealing a case already decided by a trial judge or jury. Whether you believe you have grounds for an appeal, want to understand appeal deadlines, or have questions about your rights, you’ll find the answers below in our straightforward answers to criminal appeal FAQs.
A criminal appeal is a legal process where a person (the appellant) asks a higher court to review and change a lower court’s decision after a criminal trial. In a criminal trial, the focus is on determining whether the criminal defendant (the accused) is guilty based on evidence and witness statements.
A criminal appeal doesn’t re-examine the facts of the criminal trial or review new evidence. Instead, it involves reviewing the court record to find whether legal errors occurred in a trial that might have affected its outcome. These errors could include incorrect jury instructions or a misapplication of the law, among others.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reviews the record from the trial court, appellate briefs, and the arguments from both sides to decide if the trial was fair and if the trial judge applied the law correctly. If the appeals court determines there were significant errors that affected the outcome of the criminal case, it can reverse the conviction, order a new trial, or demand other redress.
You should consider a criminal appeal if you believe legal errors occurred during your trial. If these mistakes significantly affected your trial’s outcome, you may be eligible to have your conviction overturned or have a new trial ordered in your case.
Possible examples of errors that can provide the legal basis for an appeal include
- The trial court wrongly denied a motion to suppress evidence or a statement that was unlawfully obtained
- The trial judge made an error in an evidentiary ruling by misapplying the Federal Rules of Evidence or the Texas Rules of Evidence
- The trial judge gave improper jury instructions
- There were errors in the jury selection process, such as excluding jurors based on their race
- Juror misconduct occurred during your case, such as jurors accessing prohibited information or communicating with others outside the jury about your case
- The prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence that supported your version of events
- The underlying criminal statute is unconstitutional
In Texas, the criminal appeal process starts when the appellant files a written notice of appeal with the clerk’s office. Your Texas criminal appeals lawyer must file this notice within 30 days of the judgment or sentencing, and you must pay a filing fee.
Your attorney will then prepare an appellate brief outlining the legal errors they believe happened during the trial, supported by references to the trial’s record and specifying the relief sought, such as a new trial or a vacating of a conviction. After your appellate attorneys file documents to this effect, the prosecution prepares its own brief, arguing why the trial court’s decision should stand. If, after reviewing these briefs, the appellate court decides there is merit to your appeal, it may schedule an oral argument, where both sides present their points and answer the judges’ questions.
The court of appeals reviews the trial’s record, the briefs, and the oral arguments. Depending on their findings, the court can uphold the conviction, reverse it, order a new trial, or dismiss the case.
The state and federal appellate procedures have several key differences. The laws and procedures of each system differ. Texas courts follow the laws and procedures specific to the state, whereas federal courts operate under laws and rules set by the U.S. government.
Another difference lies in the court structure. State appeals usually go to an intermediate appellate court and then to the state’s highest court. Federal appeals go directly to the Circuit Courts of Appeal. The United States Supreme Court is the final appeal option for both systems, but it only hears a select few cases each year.
You may have heard the term habeas corpus, which provides relief when a defendant can show they are actually innocent or that the conviction or sentence is illegal or unconstitutional. This is not an appeal but a different type of post-conviction relief. Broden & Mickelsen, LLP helps with post-conviction relief claims, including ineffective assistance of counsel claims, habeas corpus petitions, and motions for new trials based on newly discovered evidence.
At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, our appellate lawyers stand ready to help you if you face criminal charges or need help appealing your case. With over 60 years of combined experience in criminal defense, we know how to handle tough federal and state cases at the trial and appellate levels.
We approach each case with a unique team strategy in which both partners actively contribute to and develop a strong defense given the specifics at play. This approach allows us to provide a comprehensive defense from the moment of your arrest through to appeal.
When you hire us to handle your appeal, we can:
- Review your case to determine if there is a legal basis for an appeal
- Determine if your constitutional rights were violated and how these violations may impact your case
- Advise you of your legal options and the possible outcomes of each path you could take in your case
- Prepare the record of the case
- Prepare written motions and appellate briefs
- Argue your position at legal proceedings
Yes, there is a deadline to file a criminal appeal in Texas. You must file your notice of appeal within 30 days of the criminal court entering the judgment or the judge sentencing you. If you miss the appeal deadlines in Texas, you might lose your chance to appeal.
Filing a notice of appeal is the first step in the appeals process. It tells the court that you disagree with the decision and want a higher court to review it. If you think you need to appeal, it’s important to act quickly. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible to meet this critical deadline.
If you were convicted after you accepted a plea bargain for a lesser offense or lighter sentence, you might wonder whether you can still appeal the case. In most cases, you waive your right to an appeal as a condition of accepting a plea agreement. However, you can appeal a guilty plea in certain situations, such as if you pleaded guilty because you filed a written motion that was denied and the motion was denied in error.
Contact Broden & Mickelsen, LLP for Help
If you still have questions or need personalized guidance on criminal appeals in Texas, don’t hesitate to contact Broden & Mickelsen, LLP. We offer a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case and explore your options. Our experienced team is here to provide the support and advice you need. Contact us today to learn more.