If you have been found guilty of a criminal offense but are interested in filing an appeal, the following is what you need to know according to a Fairfax criminal defense attorney. For more specific information regarding your case, call and schedule a consultation with an attorney today to learn more about the process.
If you have had a trial in General District Court on a misdemeanor (there are no trials on felonies in General District Court), you have an automatic right to appeal that decision within 10 days. When you appeal your case it goes to the Circuit Court where you are entitled to a completely new trial where the outcome of the first trial can’t be used against you.
Once you’re in circuit court, whether on appeal of a misdemeanor or for the first time on a felony, you can appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals regarding any issues that were raised at trial which you or your attorney believes were ruled on incorrectly by the judge. There is a timeline that your attorney must follow to ensure that your appeal is appropriately perfected. If appealed on time and in the manner required by the Court, the Court of Appeals will then review trial transcript to determine if there were any errors made. If the court determines there were, the case will be remanded back to Circuit Court or they can even dismiss you case altogether.
If the Court of Appeals denies your appeal, you then have a right to appeal in the Supreme Court of Virginia, where there are more deadlines that you must meet. The Supreme Court of Virginia will review the Court of Appeals decision and will make a ruling based upon that.
Beyond The Supreme Court of Virginia, there is always the Supreme Court of the United States to which to make an appeal, but this court hears very few cases and the likelihood that they will hear your case is small.
The primary goal is not to put yourself in a worse position by appealing. Appealing from the General District Court can be a bad decision when you receive a favorable outcome in that court because everything starts anew, meaning even a good deal is wiped out. If you get a favorable outcome in General District Court you should be very careful when making a decision to appeal to Circuit Court because you never want to put yourself in a worse position.
When appealing from circuit court to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, the only real harm in appealing is cost. The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court can’t make your situation or sentence worse, but there are filing fees which do cost money in addition to attorney fees. When appealing to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court you should weigh the costs of appeal versus the likelihood of success.