Man in prison hands of behind hold Steel cage jail bars. who can appeal in a criminal case

Who Can Appeal in a Criminal Case?

The criminal appeals process in Minnesota isn’t exclusive to defendants alone; various parties hold the right to contest a verdict. It is important to know who can appeal in a criminal case to understand your rights and options. Primarily, defendants dissatisfied with a judgment may initiate an appeal, presenting their case to a higher court. However, it doesn’t end there. Prosecutors, too, possess the authority to challenge a decision they believe to be unjust. Additionally, victims of the crime or their representatives may seek an appeal if they perceive an error in the proceedings.

Man in prison hands of behind hold Steel cage jail bars. who can appeal in a criminal case

The grounds for appeal encompass a range of legal issues, from evidentiary matters to procedural errors. It’s vital to grasp the criteria for eligibility and the procedural intricacies to navigate this process effectively.

Parties With the Right to Appeal a Criminal Case

In Minnesota, the appellate process is a critical component of the criminal justice system, providing an avenue for parties involved in a case to seek a review of the trial court’s decision. Understanding who has the right to appeal is pivotal in ensuring a fair and just legal process. 

The parties who may pursue an appeal include:

Convicted Defendants’ Right to Appeal

Defendants have an inherent right to appeal a criminal case. This allows them to challenge the judgment, verdict, or sentence if they believe there were errors or injustices during the trial. Common grounds for appeal include issues related to evidence, legal procedures, or the conduct of the trial.

Prosecution’s Right to Appeal

You may wonder, “Can the prosecution appeal a not guilty verdict?” While double jeopardy protections generally prevent such action, the prosecution does have the right to appeal certain pre-trial rulings or decisions made by the trial court. For instance, if a judge suppresses key evidence, the prosecution may seek an appeal.

Victims’ Right to Appeal

In Minnesota, victims do not have an automatic right to appeal a criminal case. However, they may be granted “interested party” status, allowing them to present their views on certain aspects of the case, particularly during the sentencing phase.

State’s Right to Appeal

The State, acting on behalf of the public interest, can appeal in specific situations, such as when there are significant legal issues that need clarification or if there’s a need to establish legal precedent.

Third Parties’ Right to Appeal

In rare cases, individuals or organizations with a substantial interest in the case may seek permission from the court to intervene and participate in the appeal process.

Understanding who can appeal a criminal case in Minnesota is essential for upholding the principles of justice. Each party’s involvement in the appellate process contributes to the overall integrity and fairness of the legal system.

Requirements for Filing an Appeal in Minnesota

Appealing a criminal conviction in Minnesota is a complex process that requires careful attention to the requirements. Understanding these prerequisites is crucial for anyone seeking to challenge a conviction or sentence. Here are the key requirements one must meet:

Final Judgment: To file an appeal, a final judgment in the case is necessary. This means that all trial court proceedings, including sentencing, must be completed.

Timely Filing: Appeals must be filed within specific timeframes. In Minnesota, criminal appeals generally need to be initiated within 90 days of the final judgment. Missing this deadline can result in the appeal being dismissed.

Proper Notice: Providing proper notice to the court and all relevant parties is essential. This includes notifying the prosecution, the trial court, and often the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

Grounds for Appeal: The appellant must have valid legal grounds for their appeal. Common grounds for appeal include errors in legal procedures, improper admission or exclusion of evidence, and ineffective assistance of counsel.

Legal Representation: Appellants have the right to legal representation during the appeal process. Having an experienced criminal appeal lawyer can greatly enhance the chances of a successful appeal.

Record of Proceedings: A complete and accurate record of the trial proceedings must be assembled. This includes transcripts of hearings, exhibits, and other relevant documents.

Timelines for Filing an Appeal

Understanding the timelines for filing a criminal appeal in Minnesota is critical for ensuring that the case is considered by the appellate courts. Missing deadlines can lead to the appeal being dismissed. 

Here is a breakdown of the key timelines involved:

Notice of Appeal

The initial step in the process is filing a Notice of Appeal. This document must be submitted within 90 days of the final judgment in the trial court.

Transcripts and Record

Once the Notice of Appeal is filed, the appellant is responsible for ordering transcripts of the trial proceedings. This process should be initiated promptly, as it can take several weeks to compile the necessary documents.

Appellate Briefs

After the record is assembled, the appellant has a limited timeframe to prepare and file his or her appellate brief. This document outlines the legal arguments and grounds for the appeal.

Appellee’s Response

The prosecution, or appellee, is given a set period to respond to the appellant’s brief. They will present their counter-arguments and address the grounds for appeal.

Oral Arguments (If Applicable)

In some cases, the appellate court may schedule oral arguments to allow both parties to present their case in person.


The appellate court will then review the case and issue a written decision, either affirming, reversing, or remanding the lower court’s decision.

What Factors Are Considered During the Review Process?

When reviewing a criminal appeal in Minnesota, the appellate court considers several key factors to determine whether the lower court’s decision was correct. These factors include:

Legal Errors

The court examines whether any legal errors occurred during the trial. This could involve issues related to evidence, jury instructions, or constitutional rights.

Weight of Evidence

The appellate court assesses the strength of the evidence presented at trial. They consider whether the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction or if it was improperly admitted.

Application of Law

The court evaluates whether the trial court correctly applied the relevant laws and statutes to the case.


If errors occurred, the court considers whether they had a substantial impact on the outcome of the trial. In some cases, minor errors may not be deemed prejudicial.

Constitutional Issues

The appellate court scrutinizes whether any constitutional rights of the defendant were violated during the trial.

If you’re wondering, how to appeal, and what you need to know about appealing your criminal case, understanding these factors can provide valuable insights into the appellate process and what the court will be looking for when reviewing a case.

Successfully navigating the criminal appeals process in Minnesota requires a thorough understanding of the requirements for filing, adherence to timelines, and consideration of the factors that influence the review process. Seeking legal representation from an experienced criminal appeal lawyer may help increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

Possible Outcomes of a Criminal Appeal

The criminal court appeal process allows a defendant to challenge a conviction or sentence. In Minnesota, certain criteria must be met to initiate an appeal. Understanding who can file an appeal and the potential outcomes of such a process is vital for anyone navigating the state’s criminal justice system.

When a defendant decides to file an appeal in a criminal case, he or she is seeking a review of his or her conviction or sentence. This review can lead to various outcomes, which include:

Reversal of the Conviction

If the appellate court finds errors in the trial proceedings that substantially affected the outcome, they may choose to reverse the conviction. As such, the original judgment is nullified, and the defendant is no longer considered guilty of the crime he or she was convicted for.

To achieve a reversal of a conviction, the appellant (the party filing the appeal) must present compelling evidence that demonstrates a significant error or misconduct during the trial. This could include issues such as legal errors, procedural errors, and newly discovered evidence.

Affirmation of the Conviction

If the appellate court determines that the trial proceedings were conducted fairly and without significant errors, they will affirm the conviction. Therefore, the original judgment stands, and the defendant will serve the sentence as originally determined.

Modification of the Sentence

In some cases, even if the conviction is upheld, the appellate court may decide to modify the sentence. A modification of the sentence could result in a reduction of the sentence length or a change in the type of punishment imposed.

Understanding the potential outcomes of a criminal appeal in Minnesota, or federal courts, is essential for anyone considering this legal process. Whether one seeks a reversal of a conviction or hopes for a modification of the sentence, a thorough understanding of the criteria and potential results is crucial when navigating the appeals process. An experienced attorney may help you understand who can appeal in a criminal case, and guide you through the process if you are eligible.

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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