A criminal conviction is definitely not what any criminal defendant in Florida wants. However, a conviction in trial court is not necessarily the end of the process. This article will discuss the appellate process in Florida and what you need to know if you find yourself appealing a criminal conviction from a Florida court.
An appeal is different than a trial in Florida. The purpose of the appellate process is to review the actions of the attorneys and the judge at the trial court and determine what, if any, mistakes were made during trial. As a result, no new evidence or new witness testimony will be heard at the appellate level.
Anyone convicted in a Florida court has the right to file an appeal within 30 days of the judgment at the trial court. However, any appeal must raise issues for the appellate courts to review. Such issues may include
Improper jury instructions
Evidence was left out at trial that should have been included
Evidence was included at trial that should have been left out
A ruling that was improper by the judge
Prejudicial conduct by the prosecution
Ineffective assistance by the defense attorney
The court considering impermissible evidence during sentencing
To begin an appeal in Florida, the defendant (generally through his or her attorney) must file a notice of appeal with the trial court that handed down the judgment to be appealed. The notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date of the trial court’s judgment.
After filing a notice of appeal, the defendant must obtain a record on appeal from the trial court. The record on appeal consists of a copy of every document filed with the court and the court clerk’s transcript of the trial. This is where an appellate attorney will identify errors he or she wishes to raise to the appellate court.
Once the record on appeal is received, the appellate attorney will prepare and file an initial brief. The initial brief will detail for the appellate court the grounds of the appeal and the legal arguments supporting those grounds.
After the initial brief is filed, the state will have an opportunity to rebut the arguments made in an answer brief. The answer brief will examine whether the issues raised in the initial brief were properly preserved (generally by the defense objecting to it during trial) as well as responding to the substantive arguments made in the initial brief.
The defense may then file a reply brief, which is a response to the arguments made in the answer brief. The defense may also request to address the appellate court personally in oral arguments, which the appellate court may or may not grant. If oral arguments are granted, both attorneys will appear at the appellate court’s chambers and make their points to a three-judge panel and field their questions.
After this, the appellate court will review the case and the filings made by the appellate attorneys. The appellate court may do one of several things
Reverse the trial court’s judgment and order a new trial,
Return to the trial court for a new sentencing,
Dismiss the charges, or
Affirm the conviction.
The entire process is generally somewhat lengthy, lasting between three and six months on average.