Sometimes even the best trial strategies result in a conviction. However, a guilty verdict is not the end of the line. Virginia, like most states in the United States, have a process for a person who has been found guilty to appeal the verdict. There are many different types of appeals, and the appeal process changes depending on the severity of the crime you have been charged with and where you are in the appeal process.
So how do appeals basically work in Virginia, and what are some things you need to be aware of when discussing your criminal case with your lawyer?
Criminal Appeals from General District Court
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor offense, it is likely that your case will be tried in one of Virginia’s district courts. District Courts are part of a group of courts known as “courts not of record.” The Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is one other such court.
Anything that happens in a court not of record is unlikely to be written down. When you appeal from a court not of record, the next level of court hears all the evidence as if hearing it for the first time.
In order to appeal a guilty verdict from a general district court, you must file the proper appeals paperwork within ten (10) days from your conviction. If you have timely filed your notice of appeal, you also have the option, within sixty (60) days, to have the court not of record reconsider the matter. If the court reconsiders the matter and reverses the conviction, you can withdraw the appeal.
Criminal Appeals From Circuit Court
If you have been charged with a felony offense, or if you are on appeal from the general district court, the likely court that will hear your case is the Circuit Court of Virginia. The Circuit Court of Virginia is known as a “court of record.” Everything that happens in Circuit Court is written down and recorded.
As such, if you have to appeal to the next level of court after the circuit court you better make sure your grounds for appeal are clearly stated during your circuit court trial. This is known as “perfecting an issue for appeal.” Your criminal defense lawyer, if they are doing their job, should be perfecting any applicable issues for appeal to the next level of court.
There are a number of things a criminal defense attorney will need to do to prepare an appeal to the next level of court, which would be the Court of Appeals. Some common activities a criminal defense lawyer will do include requesting that a sentence be postponed, preparing a transcript for the appeal, and requesting additional bail terms.
Like in the General District Court, there is a time limit to file an appeal. An appeal must be filed within thirty (30) days from the conviction date. The notice of appeal in a circuit court case must be far more descriptive than the appeal from general district court. You must state every single grounds that entitles you to an appeal. Failure to preserve or mention a grounds means your case will be denied.
Criminal Appeals from Court of Appeals
The last step in the appeals process is an appeal from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Virginia. As with the other courts, there are deadlines and filing requirements for taking an appeal from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. These deadlines are strict, and failure to comply with those deadlines will likely cause your appeal to be denied.
Why You Need a Criminal Appeals Lawyer
Appealing a case is a complicated process and even normal lawyers often have a hard time navigating the complex maze of rules. Most lawyers will recommend that you utilize a special appeals lawyer to help in the process. Make sure you have a lawyer with you every step of the way, as failure to properly note an appeal will automatically mean a loss.