Once you have been convicted of a crime and sentenced in the State of Florida, it is time to take your direct appeal. If appellate proceedings are appropriate in your case, you may wonder what happens next. The appeals process is complicated. Each case is different, but there are certain time deadlines and procedures that must be followed in each appeal.
THE FOLLOWING IS A BASIC OVERVIEW OF THE APPELLATE PROCESS IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA.
The first step in the appeals process is determining whether a direct appeal is the proper course of action given the circumstances of your case. Errors in court procedure, poor jury instructions, unfair sentencing, inadmissible evidence, violations of civil rights, and jury misconduct are all grounds for an appeal in the State of Florida.
Once you and your attorney have decided to proceed with the appeals process, you must be careful to follow the rules of appellate procedure precisely or risk having your appeal dismissed.
NOTICE OF APPEAL
The first step in the appeals process is filing a Notice of Appeal with the Clerk of the lower court in which your trial was held. According to the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, you must file your Notice of Appeal within 30 days of the written rendition of your sentence. If you fail to file the Notice of Appeal within 30 days, the appellate court cannot hear your appeal without the additional process of seeking belated review.
POST TRIAL RELEASE
After the imposition of sentence, some defendants in Florida may ask the court for post-trial release by way of seeking what is commonly referred to as an appeal bond (also called a supersedeas bond). While “appeal bond” or “supersedeas bond” are the most commonly used terms, “post-trial release” is the official term used in the rule. A motion requesting post trial release may be filed either before or after the Notice of Appeal is filed. However, the detainee can not be released until after the Notice of Appeal is filed.
The Record consists of papers, documents and transcripts filed in the trial court. After filing the Notice of Appeal, the Appellant (the person filing the appeal, generally the defendant) has 10 days to direct the Clerk of the Circuit Court to include or exclude any documents or exhibits you wish to have included. Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure outline a record to be created automatically and directions are unnecessary unless specific documents should be included or excluded according to what will be appealed. A defendant must make separate arrangements within 10 days with the court reporter to prepare and file the needed transcripts.
Within 30 days of the filing of the record on appeal, the appellant is required to file an initial brief with the Clerk of the Court, as well as serve copies upon the other parties. The appellate brief is a written document which outlines the legal arguments of the appeal. The initial brief of the Appellant argues why the trial court’s judgment is erroneous, including relevant facts in the trial record and the law. The apellee’s (generally the prosecution in the criminal trial) brief argues that there is no legal basis to overturn the judgment and conviction.
These briefs have a very specific set of requirements outlined in the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, including table of contents, citations, statement of the case, summary of the argument, full argument and conclusion.
If the appellant wishes to argue in person to the court, a separate written Request for Oral Argument must be filed with the Clerk of the Court no later than the due date of the final written brief. The court will decide whether to hear your argument after reviewing your brief and request. If they decide to hear your oral argument, you will be allowed to present your case in front a panel of appellate judges. Oral arguments are limited to 10, 15, or 20 minutes, as determined by the panel of judges, and stated in the order for oral argument.
After all the briefs, the record, and the arguments are received by the court, and the judges conduct their own research, the panel of judges will “conference”, or sit and discuss the case and come to a decision. When the panel has reached its decision, the parties will receive a written notice of the court’s decision. If the court agrees with the trial court’s decision, they will affirm the decision. If they find a sufficient basis to disagree with the trial court’s decision the court will write an opinion reversing the trial court decision and explain why the trial court was wrong. This opinion will also instruct the trial court as to what actions will now need to be taken.
When all action has been taken to complete the appeal process, the court will issue a Mandate stating that the appellate process is complete. The Mandate will return jurisdiction of the case from the appellate court to the trial court.
This very brief overview of the Florida Appeals Process is meant to give you an idea of what to expect if you are considering filing an appeal of a conviction in the State of Florida. As you can see, it is a complex process with very strict rules governing procedure and time.
If you have been convicted of a crime in the State of Florida and feel you are eligible for an appeal, you need to have a qualified, experienced attorney to fight for your rights, and to ensure that your appeal is handled properly.
The Florida Bar has recognized Luke Newman as a Board Certified Specialist (“BCS”) in criminal appellate law. Board certification is the highest evaluation of an attorney’s competence and experience in the area of criminal appellate practice. Luke Newman earned this certification after an examination and evaluation of his special knowledge, skill and proficiency in criminal appellate law as well as an evaluation of his professionalism and ethics in practice. While there are thousands of lawyers in Florida, Luke Newman is one of fewer than seventy who have ever received such recognition from The Florida Bar.
Contact Luke Newman to discuss your Florida Criminal Appeal today.