If a court has found you guilty of a criminal offense and you feel like the charge is invalid, you have the right to file an appeal. However, it’s important to realize that an appeal doesn’t automatically grant you a new trial. It is simply a review of the procedures followed during your court trial to determine if everyone followed the laws correctly in convicting you. The purpose of an appeal hearing is to review the word-for-word account of the court reporter and all documents provided to the court clerk. It’s also important to know that it can be a lengthy process to get to that point.
Expect to Wait at Least a Year
From the time you file an intent to appeal the outcome of your criminal case to the time your attorney gives an oral argument averages about 12 months. Of course, your timeline could be shorter or longer depending on individual circumstances and the backlog in your county appeals court. The length of your original court transcript as well as the complexity of your legal challenge both play into how long the entire process takes. Most people appeal criminal convictions due to concerns about jury interference, one or more untruthful witnesses, weak evidence, feeling like their lawyer didn’t represent them well, or a range or related reasons.
Steps and Timeline Involved in the Appeals Process
Here is what you can expect once you have submitted the proper forms to appeal a conviction and paid the filing fee:
- Transcript preparation: The court reporter and trial court clerk start gathering the data necessary for your attorney to review. This will take at least one month. However, it can take up to six months depending on the length of your original trial.
- Opening brief: With help from your attorney, you prepare a written brief that outlines the procedural history followed in your case as well as a description of facts pertaining to your case. This report is due within 40 days after the filing of the court transcripts, although you and your attorney can potentially receive one or more 30-day extensions.
- Respondent’s brief: Typically filed 60 to 90 days after the opening brief, this document is a response by the Attorney General that states the prosecution’s argument why your original conviction is valid.
- Optional reply brief by the appellant: If your lawyer chooses to respond to the brief filed by the Attorney General, he or she has 20 days to do so.
- Oral argument: This step is also optional. It gives the lawyers for both sides the opportunity to argue points in court not covered in either of the responses. It typically takes place three or four months from the time of the reply brief or waiving the right to file a reply brief.
- Judges’ opinion: Three judges meet to decide whether everyone involved in your first trial followed proper procedures. In order for the opinion to be valid, two of the three judges must agree on the same conclusion. One of the judges then writes a majority opinion. This can occur with days of the previous step or as long as three months later.
- Rehearing petition: Either party may request a petition for a rehearing if they dispute the majority decision of the judges. This must take place within 15 days. However, it’s rare to have this request granted.
- Petition to state supreme court: You have the right to petition the decision of the appellate court and request that Maryland’s supreme court hear your case. This needs to take place within 40 days of filing of the legal opinion. The supreme court accepts few of these appeals and overturns even less. Nonetheless, it’s worth pursuing if you continue to feel wronged by the legal system.
Contact Jonathan Fellner, Attorney at Law, to Learn More
Defense attorney Jonathan Fellner would be happy to discuss this process and its timeline in greater detail when you meet with him for a free legal consultation. Please contact his office in Rockville, Maryland at 301-309-2000 to reserve your time with him.