Similar to other professions, it is crucial to hire someone who specializes in criminal appeals. We would not hire a pediatrician to perform our heart surgery; much in the same way, the law requires specialization.
Criminal appeals are heard by the district courts of appeal of Florida. There are five district courts in Florida, and each case is considered by a three-judge panel.
The method of bringing the facts and law of the case before the court is much different than in the trial court. In the appellate court, we write a document called an appellate brief. In the brief, we provide the facts that took place in the lower court, then write an argument based on intense and comprehensive research of case law, statutes, court rules, and the constitutions of Florida and the United States.
Our arguments in criminal appeals are limited to what is called the record on appeal. The record on appeal, usually referred to as just "the record," consists of every document filed in the lower court and the transcripts from trial and sometimes hearings that were held.
Our arguments are also limited to what we call preserved errors. An error occurs when the trial court makes a ruling that we disagree with. Our position is that the trial court committed an error when that happens. During trial, when the court errs, it is the job of trial counsel to preserve the error by objecting. Other ways that the court can err are by denying defense motions, granting state motions, or entering other rulings--the list is really endless. When motions are filed, the motion itself usually preserves an error for the appellate court to review.
Once we file our first brief, called an initial brief, the State then sometimes files an answer brief. We then have the opportunity to file a reply if it is necessary, but most of the time it is not.
Drafting the intial brief is a lengthy process that requires us to review the entire record on appeal, then conduct countless hours of legal research based on those facts. Many attorneys are not experienced with such comprehensive legal research, so it is important to choose an attorney who is equipped with the tools needed for the job.
The criminal appellate process itself is also very complicated. Not knowing what to do and when to do it can result in an appeal being dismissed without any briefs being filed. This can be catastrophic to the case!
If you or your loved one was recently convicted, CONTACT US NOW!!! We are always happy to explain your options and tell you what we can do to help!
You only have 30 days to initiate the appeal process, so don't wait! We look forward to helping!