A criminal conviction is a significant decision for a criminal defendant, but it might not be the last decision in a criminal case. After a conviction, a defendant may appeal the trial court’s decision, with the help of a Virginia appellate lawyer, if the defendant has grounds for appeal and files the appeal before the deadline expires.
When to Appeal
The time to file a criminal appeal is limited by Virginia law. The following is a brief overview:
- If you were convicted of a misdemeanor in a General District Court or a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, then you have 10 days from the date of conviction to appeal your case to the Circuit Court.
- If you were convicted of a crime in the Circuit Court, then you have 30 days to appeal your case to the Court of Appeals.
In some cases, a panel of three judges of the Court of Appeals may issue one 30-day extension, if you had a good reason for missing the deadline. However, you cannot rely on this possibility, and the court may deny your appeal if you miss a filing deadline. Therefore, it is critical that you contact a Virginia criminal appeals lawyer as soon as the General District Court, Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, or Circuit Court issues a decision in your case.
Reasons to Appeal
For misdemeanor convictions in a General District Court or a Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, there is an automatic right to appeal within 10 days to the Circuit Court. The case would then be set for a new hearing as if the case were starting all over again (de novo). It is also possible to request either a bench trial (a trial without a jury) or a jury trial at this stage.
On the other hand, there is no automatic right to appeal the decision of a Circuit Court. Instead, you need a legal reason to file an appeal to the Court of Appeals. The fact that you don’t like the decision of the trial court is not a reason for appeal. Even if the court made a mistake, that might not be reason enough to file an appeal if the mistake was a simple error that did not impact the outcome of your case.
However, you may be able to file an appeal if:
- Evidence was improperly admitted or excluded at trial
- A mistake was made when instructions were given to the jury
- You have evidence of juror misconduct
- Your trial lawyer was incompetent or ineffective
- An obvious factual error was made by the court
- The trial court made an error applying the law
- There is a lack of evidence to support your conviction
- Your sentence was inconsistent with Virginia law
An experienced Northern Virginia appellate attorney may review what happened in the trial court and advise you as to whether you have grounds for appeal.
Possible Outcomes of an Appeal
Even if you have grounds for appeal, you want to understand the potential outcomes so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue an appeal. During an appeal, you may not present new evidence to prove that you are not guilty unless you are appealing a misdemeanor conviction from the General District Court to the Circuit Court.
If the Virginia Court of Appeals is hearing your appeal, then you need to convince the appellate court that the trial court made a mistake and that, therefore, the appellate court should:
- Remand the case to the lower court. The Court of Appeals can send the case back to the trial court for additional proceedings on specific issues raised in your appeal.
- Reverse your conviction and send the case back to the lower court. If the appellate judge finds that the mistakes made at the trial court level impacted the outcome of your case, then the appellate judge may reverse your conviction and require the trial court to start a new trial to determine whether you are guilty or not guilty.
Appeals rarely result in the dismissal of a case, unless the Court of Appeals finds there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction.
Don’t Delay Calling a Fairfax Criminal Appeals Lawyer
Call our experienced Fairfax criminal appeals lawyers or complete our online contact form to have us contact you. Let’s discuss how we may be able to help you before the deadline for filing your appeal expires.