The bang of the judge’s gavel may indicate a conviction, but that doesn’t mean the end of your case. There are many factors at the trial level in criminal proceedings that may give rise to an appeal. These include mistakes and errors regarding the application of legal principles. When you are facing a civil rights violation, there may be cause to overturn the entire case, but you’ll need the help of skilled appellate attorneys.
Appellate work is a very complicated area of law. It requires in-depth knowledge of legal principles and procedural rules beyond what applies at trial. You will need the help of an attorney experienced in appeals, like the appellate attorneys at Tarlton Polk Law who have assisted many clients in taking advantage of this form of relief.
Criminal appellate attorneys Brad Polk and Raymond Tarlton handle a variety of appellate matters. With Tarlton Polk, you won’t have to worry about any step in the process. We file the paperwork to initiate the appeal, draft critical records and briefs, and argue your case before the Court. Though every case is different, you may find it helpful to review some general information on the appellate process in North Carolina.
The Appellate Process in North Carolina
An appeal is a review of the trial court’s application of the law, not an assessment of factual issues. There is no jury during the appellate process. In addition, no witnesses testify before the court, and there is no other evidence presentation. Another difference between trial court proceedings and the appellate process is that an appeal involves many judges. The North Carolina Court of Appeals sits in 3-judge panels. The number may vary among different jurisdictions and types of cases.
There are many complex, intricate rules regarding the appellate process in North Carolina. The best way to understand the proceedings is to look at the stages of appeals cases.
Stages of Appeals Cases
- Determine Eligibility: At the outset, it’s necessary to determine whether or not you can appeal. Our appeals attorneys start by breaking down every aspect of fact and law related to your conviction. Your pre-trial and trial proceedings are critical. We review the papers, documents, and oral records. Any investigation that preceded your arrest and conviction may also allow grounds to appeal.
- File Notice of Appeal: After identifying appeal-able questions, our attorneys file a notice of appeal. The Court may require filing fees and a bond. This is common when the appeal has an impact on a jail sentence.
- Including Supporting Documents: Your initial filings must include supporting memorandum and briefs. These will outline the questions of law and arguments. The documents should include the requested relief. This might be modifying the sentence, ordering a new trial, freeing you from custody, or other grounds for sending the case back to the trial court.
- Opposition Response: The Court grants the opposing side, as Appellee, time to file a response to the memoranda and briefs that you included with your initial filings.
- Argue Case in Court: Once the process of filing briefs is complete, the Appellant and Appellee may conduct oral arguments before the appeals court.
- Court Review: The appellate court reviews the trial record, the Appellant and Appellee briefs, all arguments, and any other supporting material to reach a conclusion. The court enters an order stating any number of alternatives.
- The appellate Court sustains the original ruling, which means you lost your appeal. You will remain in or return to custody, and any order regarding payment of fines or probation will stand.
- The appellate Court reverses the original decision, which may mean re-trial on one or multiple issues raised by your appeal. In some cases, a reversal on a key finding may even lead to turning over your conviction.
- Your case goes back to the trial court with instructions on how to proceed.
- Any combination of the above alternatives, depending on the circumstances of your case.
Based upon this review of the stages of an appellate case, you can see the importance of retaining an experienced appeals lawyer. Appellate attorneys must successfully argue your side of the case to a panel of judges, not a jury. The North Carolina appellate attorneys at Tarlton Polk Law have the legal reasoning, analysis and writing skills necessary to develop and present a strong appellate strategy.
Examples of Trial Court Errors as Grounds for Appeal
Not all issues that you disagree with are subject to appeal. You cannot appeal a conviction based upon your dispute over the facts. The appellate court must accept the facts as revealed in at the trial level. The exception would be where a finding of fact is clearly against the weight of the evidence.
However, there may be errors at trial that you can appeal because they raise questions of law, such as:
- Sentencing that violates North Carolina law or exceeds the statutory maximum.
- Improper grant of a motion related to evidence that is prejudicial to your rights.
- Improper denial of a motion on evidence that would benefit your case.
- Issuance of a warrant to search or seize evidence, when there wasn’t sufficient probable cause to do so.
- Many other issues that relate to failure to meet standards in the trial court.