Have you ever wondered what happens if the court makes a mistake in its decision?
The judges and the jury aren’t superhuman. Surely, they’re prone to errors. And if they are, are these verdicts irreversible? Luckily, in most situations, a decision can be reviewed, revised, and even reversed.
How? All through the power of an appeal.
So what does appeal mean? And how does the whole process work?
Let’s have a look.
What Does Appeal Mean in the Context of the Law?
In a nutshell, an appeal refers to a request to a higher court to review the decision made by a lower court (usually a trial court/ district court). This means that a party in a given case has the power to challenge a verdict.
The person filing the appeal is the appellant. The person against whom the appeal is being filed is the appellee. The appellant presents a written brief to the court arguing why the decision was wrong or unfair.
When an appeal is made, the appellate court then reviews the decision to check for any errors.
Every party does not automatically have the right to appeal, but they do have the right to request an appeal. If the court then decides that the written briefs, in fact, warrant an appeal, then the parties will be asked to present oral arguments.
Who Can File an Appeal?
A common misconception is that only the losing party can file an appeal. However, this is only true in certain circumstances. Here are a few general rules to keep in mind, with regard to the law surrounding appeals:
- In a civil case, either one of the two parties is at liberty to appeal to a higher court.
- In a criminal case, most states only allow for the defendant to appeal to a higher court. The defendant may appeal to change a sentence or even a conviction.
- Generally, the prosecution is not permitted to file an appeal against a verdict that acquits or deems the defendant “not guilty”. The reason for this restriction is based on the rule against “double jeopardy“
The important thing to remember is that appeals are not new trials. They do not allow for new witnesses, or new evidence to be presented. They simply allow for a review of a potentially faulty decision that occurs due to some misinterpretation of the law.
However, if new evidence does arise or you are concerned about a given testimony, be sure to consult your criminal defense attorneys on your next course of action.
The Final Verdict
The final verdict may go in several directions. For one, the higher court may uphold the decision of the lower court, reverse the decision (thereby granting the appellant what they want), or remand the decision.
After the appellate court, a further appeal may be filed to the Supreme Court filing for a writ of certiorari.
Finding the Right Lawyer
Generally, any lawyer who specializes in a particular branch of law would be equipped to handle an appeal within that field. However, that being said, there are a few who specialize in appeals or restrict their practice to the higher courts. If you feel like your lawyer did not properly represent you the first time, you should consider looking for a new one.
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