How to Appeal a Criminal Case to the Second Circuit

If you were convicted of a crime at a jury or bench trial in Minnesota and considering appealing the verdict, you might want to know how to appeal a criminal case to the second circuit. You can petition a verdict or decision by filing a petition with the appellate court or a petition for post-conviction relief with the district court that heard your trial.

If the district court judge denies your post-conviction relief petition, you can file an appeal with the Minnesota appellate court. If the appellate court affirms the district court decision, you can challenge that decision by filing a petition for review with the Minnesota supreme court. 

You cannot appeal a criminal case simply because you are unhappy with the decision or verdict. Sufficient grounds for an appeal must exist for you to consider appealing your criminal case. You must, for instance, show that the district court made one or multiple legal errors that were significant enough to affect the outcome of the case. 

What Is the Appeals Process for Criminal Cases in Minnesota?

A criminal case appeal begins when you file a Notice of Appeal along with the Statement of the Case at the Minnesota appellate court. Next, you provide a copy of those documents to the other parties before the deadline. You then submit proof of service to the clerk of the appellate court. 

The next step is requesting a written transcript of court proceedings from the district court that heard your trial. Next, you prepare and file your brief within the recommended deadline. You then provide paper copies of your brief to the other parties. 

The appellate court sets a date for oral argument or non-oral determination after receiving transcripts of your case and briefs. The appellate court issues a written opinion within 90 days after the oral argument or non-oral determination. 

If the appellate court upholds the lower court’s verdict, you can request the Minnesota Supreme court to reconsider the appellate court’s decision. You can do that by filing a petition for further review (PFR) within 30 days from when the appellate court issued a written opinion.  

How to Appeal a Criminal Case to the Second Circuit

Complete and File the Notice of Appeal Along with the Statement of the Case 

Start by completing the Notice of Appeal form that informs the appellate court you are appealing the lower court’s decision. Also, complete the Statement of the Case form that explains why you believe the lower court’s decision was erroneous. Keep your explanation concise, as you will get a chance to provide comprehensive arguments in your brief. 

Statement of the Case requires you to answer a few questions. It may require you to specify whether you will need an oral argument. It may also require you to specify the format option you will use for your brief. 

Complete all the spaces on the forms. The appellate court’s clerk may send the forms back to you if you leave some spaces unfilled. Consequently, you may miss the appeal deadline and lose your right to appeal. 

Be sure to do due diligence on your appeal before completing the Statement of the Case. Criminal appeal lawyers conversant with the Minnesota Rule of Criminal Appellate Procedure can walk criminal defendants through the whole appeals process. 

After completing the Notice of Appeal and Statement of the Case, you should file them with the office of the appellate court’s clerk. Filing involves delivering these documents to the said office. You can deliver these documents by mail, in person, or electronically. The appeal process begins soon after you file the Notice of Appeal. 

Serve the Filed Documents to the Opposing Parties        

You must provide the other parties with all the documents delivered to the office of the appellate court’s clerk for filing. The other parties to the petition include the prosecution office, the Minnesota Attorney General, and the court administrator of the court that heard your trial.

Serve the attorney if the other party has one. Serve the other party directly if that party does not have an attorney. You can serve the documents to the other party by mail, or have someone at least 18 years and not involved in the appeal hand-deliver the documents. You can also serve the documents electronically or any other delivery method approved by the recipient. 

File Proof of Service  

You must attach a form showing that the documents delivered to the appellate court’s clerk for filing have been provided to the other parties. This form is known as proof of service. You must submit this form, no matter the delivery method used to serve the other parties.

Proof of service is typically an Affidavit of Service dated and signed before a notary or a Certificate of Service. You may submit one proof of service form containing several documents if you deliver those documents to the same parties on the same day. 

Get the Notice of Case Filing and Rectify Any Errors 

After receiving your petition documents and proof of service, the appellate court’s clerk will allocate a file number to your appeal and provide you with a Notice of Case Filing. The clerk might send this document by mail if you did not submit your email address to the court. The clerk may also email you this document if the court has your email address on its record. 

The Notice of Case Filing usually identifies any errors on your appeal documents that must be corrected before the appeal can proceed. Carefully examine your Notice of Case Filing to determine if the appellate court’s clerk identified any errors. If yes, rectify the errors within ten days. Falling to correct any mistakes listed on your Notice of Appeal may lead to your appeal dismissal. 

Ask for Your Transcript (if necessary) 

In an appeal, the appellate court reviews only the information contained in the district court record and briefs from both parties. In other words, you cannot introduce new evidence or interview witnesses in an appeal. The district court record includes evidence presented during proceedings at the district court. 

It might also comprise a transcript of the proceedings at the district court. A transcript is a written or typed document containing the statements of all the witnesses, parties to the appeal, prosecutors, and the district court judge. 

Consider requesting a transcript of each proceeding you would like the Appellate Court to review in your criminal case appeal. You must ask for your transcript within 30 days after filing your Notice of Appeal. Your lawyer will help you determine whether you need to request your transcript and guide you on how to do it on time.

Determine the Deadline for Your Brief 

A brief is a document that outlines the facts in your case and legal arguments on appeal. Filing a brief on time is compulsory. Failure to do so can cause the appellate court to dismiss your appeal. You have to determine and stay on top of your deadlines. 

Multiple factors may affect the deadline for filing your brief. These factors include whether you asked for a transcript and the method used to deliver the transcript to you. If you did not request a transcript, you must file and serve your brief within 60 calendar days from your Notice of Appeal’s filing date. 

If you requested a transcript and received it electronically, you must file and serve your brief within 60 calendar days from the date you got the transcript. You would have an extra business day on top of the 60 calendar days if you received the transcript electronically after 5:00 p.m. If you requested the transcript and received it by mail, you have 60 calendar days plus three business days from the date the transcript was mailed to you to file and serve your brief. 

Create Your Brief 

Your brief should explain in detail why you believe the verdict or decision reached by the lower court was incorrect. You must support your brief with relevant legal authorities, including case citations, precedents, or legislation. You must also support your statements of facts with references to your district court record, including the transcript and other relevant evidence.

Your brief can take any of the three format options: 

  • Formal Brief: This brief format consists of a table of contents, issue statements, a case summary, legal arguments, a conclusion, and an addendum. A formal brief must comply with the approved binding method – you cannot just staple it. 
  • Informal Brief: This brief comprises a written legal argument and an addendum. Unlike a formal brief, an informal brief can be stapled. You must, however, obtain authorization from the court to file this type of brief. You can do that by filing a motion asking for permission. 
  • Short Letter Argument: You may also submit a Memorandum of Law that you filed at the district court as part of your post-conviction petition and a short letter argument as your brief. Your short letter argument should cover your post-conviction petition denial. You can staple this type of brief and incorporate an addendum. 

Ensure you incorporate an addendum to your brief, regardless of the brief format option you choose to file. Your addendum must include a copy of the verdict you are appealing, irrespective of whether you provided it at the start of your appeal. The clerk’s office will turn down your brief if you fail to include a copy of the verdict in the addendum to your brief. 

Your addendum may also include up to 50 extra pages of paperwork from the district court record, court rules, legislation, and other relevant authorities. You cannot, however, introduce any new evidence that was not submitted to the district court. 

File Hard Copies of Your Brief and Serve them to the Other Parties 

You must submit the hard copies of your brief to the clerk’s office and the respondent. This rule applies even if you used the E-MACS system of the court of appeals to file and serve your brief electronically. Be sure to complete, sign, and file the Appellant’s Certificate of Service by Mail of Brief with the Clerk’s office. 

The respondent must file a respondent’s brief within 45 days from when you filed your brief. The respondent’s brief might introduce new issues not covered in your brief. In this case, you can file and serve a reply brief addressing those new issues. Filing a reply brief is, however, optional.

You have 15 days from when the respondent served you the respondent’s brief to file a reply brief. Your reply brief must focus only on those issues raised in the respondent’s brief or addressed in your brief. You cannot introduce new issues in your reply brief. 

When Can You Appeal a Criminal Case?

Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure outlines the guidelines and timelines for appealing felony, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, and petty misdemeanor cases. The only exception is first-degree murder cases, whose appeals are filed directly with the Minnesota supreme court. 

The filing deadline varies from one type of criminal appeal to another. Generally, the deadline for appealing felony and gross misdemeanor cases is 90 days from the sentencing date. The appellant may include other charges combined with a felony or gross misdemeanor for prosecution in the appeal. 

The deadline for appealing misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor cases is 30 days after sentencing. The deadline for appealing a post-conviction relief denial is 60 days from when the district court entered the denial decision.  

As you can see, the Minnesota appeals process for criminal cases can be quite long and confusing for a person with no legal background. It is wise to hire a criminal defense attorney to help you navigate how to file an appeal in a criminal case and argue your appeal. The attorney may secure you a favorable outcome in the appellate court by showing that the district court made significant legal errors.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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