In general, the United States as well as each individual state has a three-tier court system: trial court, intermediate appellate court and highest state or federal court. Usually, parties must first go through an intermediate appellate court before they can appeal to the highest court. An appeal is based on claims that the lower court erred, and those errors should result in a reversal or modification of the decision.
Once a guilty verdict has been issued, the second part of the trial is sentencing. According to Illinois state law, a criminal defendant has an automatic right to an appeal. And, therefore, has a right to an attorney. Consequently, the defendant’s attorney must bring the case before an Illinois appellate court with the goal of obtaining a reversal, new trial, or resentencing. Generally, an appeal involves the allegation that a state circuit or federal district court violated the convicted person’s rights under the Constitution. Facts of the case must be found within the record – the lower court’s case file and transcript – on appeal in order for the appellate court to consider the issues.
To appeal a criminal case, the appellate attorney orders transcripts of the trial. These can cost thousands of dollars to obtain. In fact, properly advocated appeals cases are extremely time-consuming. They require intense legal research, meticulous review of transcripts and compelling writing of briefs. Arguments on appeal must be initially submitted to the court in writing by way of an appellate brief. Once submitted, oral arguments may be scheduled.
If an initial appeal fails, a post-conviction appeal may be filed in the same court that decided the initial sentence. Generally, post-conviction appeals hinge on discovery of new evidence. Illinois law requires a post-conviction appeal to include affidavits in support of the claim. A petitioner does not have the right to an attorney until a judge in circuit court finds the petition is not “frivolous or patently without merit”.
The issues that may be presented in an appeal are twofold: those of fact and those of law. Issues of fact relate to the particular facts of the case on appeal, which are decided by a jury. Issues of law refer to a decision made by the court or a legal conclusion on the case. Even if a case is lost on appeal, there may be other legal options in the form of post-conviction remedies such as a writ of habeas corpus if a federal constitutional right was violated in the trial below or the appearance of newly discovered evidence that was not available during the original state trial.
Appellate work requires effective and persuasive writing coupled with a diligent devotion to the study of law. These are not necessarily the same skills required of an effective appeals attorney a passionate trial lawyer. If you or a loved one has lost a criminal case and is interested in an appeal, contact a Chicago criminal appeals attorney immediately to discuss your options. Attorney Steven Goldman has over 15 years of criminal defense experience and can skillfully seek post-conviction relief. Call (773) 484-3131 today for an initial consultation.