If you face a criminal charge or conviction, you may already be wondering about ways to appeal a guilty verdict. If so, you should be aware of some common misconceptions about appeals in criminal cases.
But first, some basics:
Myth #1: An appeal is a retrial or new trial
As for common misconceptions or myths about appeals, one is that an appeal of a criminal conviction involves new evidence or new witnesses. In fact, an appeal isn’t considered a retrial or a new trial at all, and new evidence is not considered. Rather, an appeal in a criminal case typically involves challenging the legal procedures and processes in the original trial.
Such a challenge can include arguments that:
- Errors were made in the trial’s procedures
- The judge made errors in interpreting the law
- The verdict wasn’t supported by evidence
- The verdict was unreasonable
- The verdict was a miscarriage of justice
- The verdict violated the defendant’s rights under state constitution or the U.S. Constitution
Myth #2: An appeal can be filed in any court
After a guilty verdict in a district or county court in Texas, an appeal can be sought to present such arguments before one of the Texas appellate courts designated expressly for criminal and civil appeals cases.
There are 14 appellate courts throughout the state, including the First Court of Appeals of Texas, located in downtown Houston. This court hears appeals for Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County and seven other surrounding counties.
Each court of appeals has a chief justice and at least two other justices to hear the case.
If that appeal fails, the court of last resort for criminal appeals in Texas is the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, located in Austin. It has has a presiding judge and eight other judges.
Myth #3: Filing an appeal is your legal right
The American Bar Association notes one other common myth or misconception about appeals: that a person has an automatic right to an appeal. That’s not true.
An appeal isn’t granted simply because you want one or because your attorney demands it. Rather, there must be a clear legal basis for an appeal — a basis which your criminal defense lawyer can present to the court in arguing for an appeal.
Myth #4: Every appeal can be taken to the Supreme Court
Another common misconception about appeals is that, if thwarted by lower courts, you can take your appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, this rarely occurs. Such courts are extremely selective in the cases they hear, and it’s highly unlikely that your appeal would reach that level.
Myth #5: Being granted an appeal means freedom
Lastly, a common misconception is that you’re automatically freed if your appeal is granted. Instead, your case may be “remanded,” or sent back to the lower court for reconsideration. In some rare cases, an appellant is released from jail immediately following a successful appeal; however, this is the exception and not the rule.
If you’d like to know more about how the appeals process works or you want to discuss your case with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney, the good news is you’ve come to the right place.
Neal Davis is a top-rated, criminal defense attorney located in Houston, Texas. For nearly 20 years, he has successfully handled state and federal cases across Texas and the United States, including arguing before the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals and appearing as lead counsel in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case.