If you've been found guilty of a crime, you may still have a chance to beat the criminal conviction through an appeal. Here's what you need to know.
You Have a Limited Time to Appeal
When you're convicted of a crime, you only have a short amount of time to appeal. Depending on the laws for your area, this can be as little as a few weeks or a few months. If you don't file a notice of appeal by the deadline, you lose your right to appeal.
One common way this comes up is if you have a past conviction and are charged with a new crime. For example, DUI usually has more serious consequences for a second offense than a first offense. You might want to avoid the increased consequences of having a second offense by going back and appealing the first offense.
By that time, it will usually be too late. Appeals are a way to quickly correct injustices not to undo convictions from long ago. To avoid future consequences, the only option is to appeal quickly in case something happens.
You Lose the Presumption of Innocence
Before you're convicted, you're presumed innocent and the prosecution has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. In an appeal, you've been found guilty and have to show the appeals court why you shouldn't have been found guilty.
While a criminal defense lawyer is important in any criminal case, having a lawyer for an appeal is even more important. Since you're presumed guilty, it's even harder to win an appeal than it is to beat a charge at trial.
Appeals Are Based on Laws Not Facts
You don't get to introduce new evidence in an appeal or even to reargue the original evidence. The purpose of an appeal is to argue possible legal errors in your original case.
For example, if a witness gave evidence against you, you can't argue to the appeals court that they shouldn't believe the witness. That's for the jury to decide. What you can argue is that the trial judge allowed the witness to say something that was hearsay or against other evidence rules. A judge letting in evidence that shouldn't have been allowed is a legal error that can be appealed.
In rare cases, you may hear about things like new DNA evidence setting someone free. Those types of situations fall outside of the normal appeals process but are still something to discuss with a criminal defense lawyer if you believe your conviction should be overturned.