The Justice System’s Safety Net
Our criminal justice system is meant to work all the time. But all systems, this one included, fail from time to time. When the system fails, either innocent people go to prison for a felony conviction or guilty people go free. Of the two, we as a society believe that it is better for a guilty person to go free than it is for an innocent party to go to prison. That is why we have a system of criminal appeals that kicks in after a criminal conviction.
If you or a loved one are in the process of a criminal trial, you may already be thinking about the possible need for an appeal if things go badly in your trial. Here are some things you might want to know about criminal appeals and how they are handled in Wagoner, Oklahoma.
State Court Appeals and Federal Court Appeals
There are two separate tracks for a criminal appeal, state and federal. If the underlying criminal matter is tried in a state court, the first set of appeals are usually filed in a state court. If the underlying criminal trial is held in federal court, the appeals are also filed in federal court.
It is important to understand what an appeal is and how it works. An appeal is a formal pleading that is lodged with a higher court. It asks that court to review the case, including the trial transcript, all the evidence, and the issues to see if any prejudicial mistakes were made.
A convicted defendant has the right to an appeal. If the conviction involves the death penalty, the appeal is automatic. Appeals, whether in state or in federal court, involve strict procedural timelines and rules. Because the rules regarding appeals are complex, and mistakes can result in denials of an appeal, it is always better to have an experienced attorney handle an appeal rather than handling it yourself.
State Court Direct Criminal Appeals
Direct appeals are the most common type of criminal appeal filed. These appeals must be prepared and filed quickly after a conviction. Within 10 days of the formal sentencing a Notice of Intent to Appeal, Designation of the Record and Advisory Propositions of Error must be filed with the trial court. These appeals require a full transcript. Trial transcripts are expensive. If a defendant cannot pay for the transcript, the state will pay for the cost.
The purpose of a direct appeal is to check the record for prejudicial errors that may have wrongly led to the conviction rather than to challenge the conviction itself. If the error is not prejudicial, but is what is known as “harmless” the underlying conviction is affirmed. If the error was prejudicial, the appellate court may either affirm in part and reverse in part, or order a new trial. In that case, the matter is sent back down to the lower court for a new trial in whole or part.
Grounds for Direct Appeal
The error is the ground or grounds, if there are multiple errors, upon which the appeal is based. Much of the time, an appeal is based upon error that the judge makes during the trial. These errors can be based on a mistake in ruling on an objection raised by the trial defense counsel, giving the wrong jury instructions, or either allowing evidence in that should have been excluded, or excluding evidence that should have been allowed in.
Other grounds for appeal include things such as jury misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, or ineffective assistance of counsel. Jury misconduct often takes the form of talking to other people about a case while sitting on a jury.
Prosecutorial misconduct is often the prosecutor’s failure to be above-board about the evidence they have uncovered that would show a defendant’s innocence. Ineffective assistance of counsel is when your trial attorney has made a serious mistake during the trial. This could be an attorney who just doesn’t know the law, or an attorney who is intoxicated during the trial.
There is one more ground for a direct appeal, new evidence. When new evidence is found, such as DNA evidence, that new evidence can sometimes give rise to a new trial.
In Oklahoma, there is another type of appeals process in the state court. A post-conviction appeal, or a Section1080 appeal can be brought after a direct appeal is denied. These grounds tend to be more procedural in nature.
This appeal must be filed quickly after the denial of the direct appeal to preserve certain federal rights of appeal.
This appeal is filed with the Oklahoma District Court. You can bring this type of appeal when:
- the conviction or the sentence was in violation of the state of federal Constitution;
- the court that convicted you was without jurisdiction to impose sentence;
- the sentence exceeds the maximum authorized by law;
- there are material facts that were not presented or heard in the trial and that requires the vacation of the conviction or sentence in the interest of justice;
- the defendant remains incarcerated once his or her sentence, probation, or parole has expired, or his or her conditional release has been unlawfully revoked, or he or she is otherwise unlawfully held in custody or other restraint; or
- the conviction or sentence is subject to collateral attack upon any ground of alleged error available under any common law, statutory or other writ, motion, petition, proceeding or remedy. Okla. Stat. tit. 22 § 1080.
There are other types of relief that may be available to you post-conviction. All matters and routes of relief on appeal should be discussed with your attorney as part of a comprehensive appeals plan. Get the help you need to fight your conviction today.
Free Consultation: Wagoner Criminal Appeals Attorney
For a free consultation with a Wagoner Criminal Appeals Attorney call the Wirth Law Office – Wagoner at (918) 485-0335 (or toll free at (888) Wirth-Law). Or, you may send your question to the Wagoner criminal defense lawyer using the form at the top right of this page.