Unless your case was dismissed or you were found not guilty, you are probably not happy with the outcome of your criminal trial. However, simply being dissatisfied is not cause for appealing the decision in Virginia. In order to overturn a verdict, you will have to prove that your rights were violated or the case was mishandled. The process is complicated, so it’s critical that you discuss the possibility of an appeal with an experienced Virginia appellate attorney if you believe you have reason to appeal a court decision.
Grounds for Appeal in Virginia
While there may be many aspects about the outcome of your trial that make you unhappy, you must have a specific legal reason for appealing a verdict to circuit court or to the Virginia Supreme Court. In general, appeals can be made on procedural grounds or for a violation of your legal rights. Some examples of potentially acceptable reasons for appeal include the following:
- Instructions were not given to the jury correctly.
- Evidence was not submitted properly.
- There is evidence of juror misconduct.
- Your original lawyer was incompetent or ineffective.
There are strict deadlines for filing an appeal, so you will have to move quickly if you believe you have grounds. To appeal a decision of the General District Court, you only have 10 days to file. When appealing from Circuit Court to the Virginia Court of Appeals, you have 30 days to file. An experienced appellate attorney will be well aware of the time limits and will work efficiently on your behalf.
How Does an Appeal Work?
It is important that you understand what an appeal is and what your chances of success are. The process can be difficult and time-consuming and, even when a petition is granted, the chances are that the appeal won’t be successful. An appeal is not a re-trial of your original case; you do not present new evidence or new witnesses. Instead, the higher court will review trial records to determine if the lower court committed any legal or procedural mistakes. Your attorney may present evidence of misconduct or violations of your rights. The judge hearing the appeal may do any of the following:
- Uphold the lower court’s finding. This is the most common result of an appeal. If the judge decides that your trial was fair and that no misconduct occurred, you will lose your appeal.
- Remand the case back to the lower court for additional proceedings. If the appellate judge feels that steps were missing or more should have been done in your original trial, he may return your case to the same court.
- Reverse the conviction and send it back to the lower court for a new trial. Higher courts are not eager to change the decision of a lower court, so your attorney would have to present strong evidence that the ruling was unjust in order to win the appeal.
Even if you win your appeal, it usually means you will be headed back to trial again—not that the charges against you are dismissed.
Appeals Are Difficult Legal Proceedings
Because appeals are based on legal and procedural issues, you will need an attorney who has experience arguing appeals. Stephen Bloomquest is a criminal defense attorney who also handles appeals, even if he was not your attorney in your original criminal trial. You may be unsatisfied with your original attorney, or he may not handle appeals. Either way, Stephen will examine your case for the possibility of an appeal and will be honest with you about your chances. Because appeals are challenging, Stephen will not encourage an appeal if he doesn’t think it’s worth the time and money.
If you are in need of a skilled appellate attorney in the Richmond area, contact Quest Law PLLC to see if we can help