If you believe you have been unjustly convicted of a crime, it is important to contact an attorney without delay. Specific time deadlines must be met in order to preserve the right to appeal. If appropriate notice is not filed with the court, the appellate courts may lose jurisdiction to even consider your appeal.
Appellate processes in Utah are complex. We understand the issues that can lead to a successful appeal. Our experience as a defense team has given us the skills and knowledge necessary to help you file a successful appeal in your case.
Utah District Court Criminal Appeals: Getting Started
To initiate an appeal from a district court’s trial verdict or ruling, you must file a “Notice of Appeal.” This notice must be submitted to the district court within 30 days following the date the judgement to be appealed is entered. Failure to file the Notice of Appeal within this 30-day window can result in the complete forfeiture or relinquishment of the right to appeal.
Notice of Appeal, Docketing Statement, and Record Transmission
The Notice of Appeal should be filed with the court where the conviction was entered. The notice signifies your desire to seek an appellate examination of a verdict or judicial decision. After submitting the Notice of Appeal, a Docketing Statement should be filed, outlining the expected issues to be addressed.
When the formal record is compiled and transmitted from the trial court to the appellate court, it is essential to review trial transcripts, motions, directives, and other related documents. This helps pinpoint matters that form the basis for overturning the conviction or any other court order.
Issues on Appeal
Upon careful examination of court records and transcripts, a good appeals attorney may discovery appealable issues that might not have been evident to your attorney during the trial phase. Such topics are labeled “unpreserved” issues since they weren’t brought to the judge’s attention during the trial. However, even unpreserved issues can be appealed through plain error review or under an ineffective assistance of counsel analysis.
Common issues for appeal include breaches of constitutional rights, pretrial motion rulings, judgments by the trial court judge that conflict with prevailing case precedents, errors in evidentiary rulings at trial, and incorrect instructions given to the jury.
Briefing and Argument
Once issues for appeal are pinpointed, the appellant (usually the defendant) must submit an initial brief to the appellate court. This brief gives the appellant to dig deep into the legal intricacies of the mistakes made at the trial level.
The government is then given an opportunity to present counterarguments in a written response brief. The appellant is then allowed to file a shorter written reply brief. This exchange of briefs can often take several months or longer. The appellate court then reviews the written briefing and will usually set a date for the parties to present oral argument to the court.
During oral argument, the parties have an opportunity to answer questions from the appellate court or to clarify issues or concerns that the judges or justices may have.
Following oral argument, the court will take the case under advisement. The court may have further internal discussions before reaching a decision. Usually, a formal written opinion with explanation of the court’s reasoning is then issued for official publishing.
Petition for Writ of Certiorari
In most criminal cases in Utah, the Utah Court of Appeals will hear and decide the initial appeal. If either party disagrees with the decision of the Court of Appeals, a petition for a writ of certiorari can be filed with the Utah Supreme Court.
This petition serves as a request that the Supreme Court review of the decision made by the Court of Appeals to determine whether it was legally correct. Utah’s Supreme Court is not required to review every decision made by the Court of Appeals. Instead, they will evaluate the petition to decide if the case warrants additional scrutiny.
Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be granted, it does not automatically result in the overturning of the Court of Appeals’ decision. Instead, it opens the door for the parties to present the Supreme Court with further briefing and oral argument on the issues.
Appealing from a Utah Justice Court
Appealing from a justice court is an entirely different process and does not require docketing statements, briefings, or oral discussions. But it is still absolutely necessary to file the initial Notice of Appeal in the justice court within 28 days of the date the judgement or order being appealed is entered.
Since justice courts are not recognized as “courts of record,” appeal is made as a “de novo” hearing or trial. “De novo” signifies that the defendant is automatically granted a fresh hearing or trial, which will take place in the district court.
The outcome of this “de novo” trial or hearing in the district court is usually deemed conclusive, with no further direct appeal options.
Finding a Criminal Appeals Lawyer in Utah
Our extensive hands-on experience with felony and misdemeanor matters in Utah’s criminal courts equips us with a unique understanding of the trial processes that often become the focus of criminal appeals in Utah. Our experience in Utah’s appellate court system qualifies us to help you preserve and protect your rights on appeal. Contact us to initiate the appeal process and discover how our legal professionals can support your case.