You may have grounds for a guilty verdict appeal to an appellate court (a higher court) after a court convicts or sentences you. The appeal should ask the higher court to review the verdict made by the lower court for any errors that impacted the trial’s outcome. However, the guilty verdict stands if the higher court rejects your appeal. Understanding the grounds, deadlines, and step-by-step process of appeal can help you know what to expect from your guilty verdict appeal.
Grounds for a Guilty Verdict Appeal
People unhappy with a court’s decision often ask, “What is an appeal?” An appeal generally refers to the process of having a higher court review a lower court’s ruling rather than start a new trial of the criminal case.
The appellate court will review certain records to determine whether you have sufficient grounds to appeal your conviction. These records comprise the trial transcript, relevant evidence presented in court, and pre-and post-trial motions.
An appeal may be granted if the review suggests there were legal errors, ineffective legal assistance, and juror misconduct in the criminal case. These issues must have influenced the case outcome for the appeal to proceed.
A legal error may occur if the conviction or sentencing does not follow Minnesota laws on the same. Your criminal appeal lawyer needs to mention the statutes the lower court failed to adhere to while presenting arguments.
Jury misconduct may take the form of alcohol or drug abuse by one of the jury members amidst trial or deliberations. It may also be a legal ground for an appeal if the jurors did not communicate properly with your lawyer or witnesses.
Inadequate representation is also among the reasons to appeal a case. You must prove that the legal counsel’s actions affected the case outcome. The legal counsel might have been a public defender or a criminal defense lawyer.
Deadlines for Filing an Appeal
The appellate court (Court of Appeals) will require you to file the appeal 60 days after the filing of a district court order that denies a post-conviction petition. Filing deadlines for criminal cases vary with the type of conviction. So, you need to consult a criminal defense lawyer to help you understand the Minnesota appeal deadlines and timelines of your criminal case.
The deadline starts on the date an administrator from the district court files an order. However, the appellate court can grant you a deadline extension of not more than 30 days. For the deadline extension to work, you need to prove a good cause when making a motion for the extension.
Certain rules can help you determine the time limits for filing an appeal and serving documents in Minnesota. They include:
- Never count the event day when the time limit starts running. (In particular, the date the district court decides to file the order and the day you serve the respondent a brief)
- Count the next day of the event
- Consider calendar days without skipping legal holidays or weekends
- For the last days of the deadline ending on a legal holiday or weekend, the deadline will move to the next working (or business) day
Expect a Minnesota court to be open on Columbus Day. However, the filing deadlines falling on this legal holiday move to the next day. The appellate court also releases opinions for different appeals on this day.
Steps to File an Appeal for a Guilty Verdict
Minnesota laws on appeals allow you to appeal a guilty verdict or a conviction, such as a felony, misdemeanor, or infraction. Here are the six steps to file a guilty verdict appeal in Minnesota:
Filing a Notice of Appeal
One of the initial stages of an appeal involves filing a Notice of Appeal. You have to do it with the court that tried your criminal case and sentenced you.
For a misdemeanor conviction, you have at most 30 days after getting the guilty verdict to file the notice. The time limit for a felony conviction is 60 days after the lower court gives a guilty verdict. You risk losing your legal right to appeal if you fail to stick to the deadline.
The court might accept late filing under specific circumstances. In particular, the constructive filing principle may allow for this exception. The principle takes effect when you file from prison, but the Notice of Appeal is mailed to the court late.
If the trial lawyer did not help you with the paperwork to meet the deadline, the court might allow you to file the notice late. You may also have a small window to refile the notice to the right court if you initially filed it with the wrong court and the deadline has passed.
Obtaining the Record on Appeal
A reporter’s and clerk’s transcript constitute the record on appeal. Both documents help lay a foundation for your appeal. Since the appellate court will not accept new evidence, you should ensure that these transcripts contain accurate and factual details that capture your trial proceedings.
In the clerk’s transcript, expect to find a set of legal documents previously filed with the court that ruled on your criminal case. This transcript highlights the specific charges you faced, written arguments, jury instructions, preliminary hearing transcripts, and written sentencing details.
On the other hand, the reporter’s transcript captures the entire proceedings in your trial word-for-word. It comprises all statements issued by the prosecutor, your legal counsel, witnesses (if there were any), and the judge.
Your criminal defense lawyer can have a court clerk order this type of transcript on your behalf. Under the court clerk’s directive, the transcript will be developed for both parties when filing an appeal notice with the Minnesota appellate court.
Trial proceedings for felony charges tend to have court reporters. However, if none was present during your trial, you can agree on a stipulated or settled statement with the state. The statement will capture the actual events that took place during the trial. Contact the appellate or higher court clerks if you spot errors in the transcripts. Notify them about the errors and omissions.
Expect your criminal appeal attorney to review the record once it is complete. The review will help determine the arguments the attorney can use to have the court dismiss the case, reverse the conviction, modify or reduce your sentence, or start new trial proceedings.
Your lawyer will prepare a brief summarizing the case with accurate statements. The brief, known as the appellant’s opening brief, will feature damaging and beneficial evidence for your case. The brief helps address the record in its entirety.
After preparing the brief, your lawyer will mention the problems or issues from your criminal trial proceedings. The lawyer will argue why the trial did not have appropriate outcomes.
In the respondent’s brief, on the other hand, the prosecutor will argue against your case. The brief will sum up the case history while arguing that you had a proper conviction.
Once the prosecution team responds, you will too, using an appellant’s reply brief. The brief lets your lawyer scrutinize and oppose the prosecutor’s arguments by providing details to strengthen the requests made in the filed appeal. Your lawyer will also single out any inconsistencies or mistakes in the prosecutor’s arguments.
Presenting Oral Arguments
The appellate court may allow both parties to make factual oral arguments once it reviews the briefs. Since it is up to the appellate court to decide whether they occur, oral arguments are not mandatory for every appeal.
Your lawyer will address the appeals court as the oral arguments take place. You will not be allowed to speak throughout the session, even when you are prepared to do so.
A three-judge panel hears the oral arguments, which are organized and timed. The judging panel allows your lawyer to give the first statement before allowing the prosecutor to do the same.
Receiving the Court’s Decision
The three-judge panel will weigh the statements made during the oral arguments and issue a decision on a specified day. Expect a comprehensive written decision from the three judges explaining how they reached the decision.
If the three-judge panel fails to agree, there might be two contrasting decisions: a dissent and a majority decision. Either way, if the panel rules in your favor, it allows for a case dismissal, new sentencing, or a new trial. If it rules against your appeal, it will uphold your guilty verdict as it is.
Seeking Further Review
You could use various avenues for further review if the three-judge panel’s decision did not favor you. One of the options involves requesting the appellate court for a rehearing to have your appeal argued in court once more.
The Minnesota Supreme Court may review your criminal case if you give the court a request ten days after the three-judge panel decision is finalized. It takes 30 days from when the judges released their opinion for the decision to be final.
You have a legal right to ask the US Supreme Court to review your case. For this to work, the appeals court should have rejected your criminal case appeal or made an unsatisfying decision. Either way, the time limit for filing this request is 90 days.