When a person has been convicted of a criminal offense, they have the right to appeal their conviction to a higher court to make certain that the trial was conducted properly. If certain types of errors are found, the conviction may be overturned and the case returned to the lower court for a new trial.
It is very difficult to overturn a conviction on appeal, however. The judicial system favors keeping the trial court’s rulings in place without disturbing them. Thus, if errors are deemed harmless ones, meaning they would not have substantially impacted the probable outcome of the case, the appeal will not be granted and the findings will stand. In order to be successful on appeal, their must instead have been either a serious legal error or the weight of the evidence must have been insufficient to support the finding of guilt.
Serious errors of law are those that are so plain and obvious that they affected the defendant’s substantial rights. Plain errors can form a strong basis for appeal. Prevailing on an appeal based on insufficient evidence is more difficult, however. Since appellate judges are not able to hear the testimony as given at trial, view evidence or hear the opening and closing statements as presented, they may hesitate to grant an appeal on that basis.
People who have been convicted and who want to appeal their conviction must do so within certain prescribed time limits. They may thus want to speak with a criminal defense attorney who handles appellate work. An attorney may be able to review the trial transcripts in order to determine whether grounds exist for an appeal. Legal counsel may also file the notice of appeal within the required time limit and then proceed to draft the appellate brief.