Few things are more stressful or frightening than being convicted of a crime. A conviction is not necessarily the end of the road—courts sometimes make mistakes. You have the right to file an appeal of an unfavorable decision. That being said, bringing a successful appeal can be quite challenging. There are specific steps that you need to take to get the appellate court to even hear your argument—let alone to win your case. In this article, our Fairfax criminal appeals attorneys provide a brief overview of the process.
Key Steps to Take to Appeal a Criminal Conviction in Virginia
- Consider the Basis and Grounds for Appeal
Before you appeal a criminal conviction, you should carefully consider the grounds for raising such a challenge. Appellate courts generally defer to the decision made by a lower court. In order to bring a successful appeal in a criminal case, a petitioner must demonstrate that the trial court made a substantial or material error. In practice, a defendant may be able to appeal a criminal conviction on several grounds, including:
- Evidentiary errors (allowing or not allowing certain evidence);
- Misapplication of the law;
- Improper jury instructions; or
- Ineffective assistance of counsel.
It is important to emphasize that winning on appeal can be difficult. According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), approximately 12 percent of criminal appeals are decided in favor of the petitioner—meaning the conviction is reversed, remanded, or modified in some form. You need an experienced advocate on your side.
- File a Notice of Appeal With the Trial Court
To initiate the appeals process in Virginia, you must file a Notice of Appeal with the appropriate trial court. Under Commonwealth law (Va. R. Sup. Ct. 5A:6), a Notice of Appeal must be submitted within 30 calendar days of the date at which the final order was entered. Do not miss this deadline. If you fail to start the appeals process in time, you will almost certainly lose out on your right to bring an appeal at all.
- File a Transcript/Written Statement of Facts
Under Virginia law (Va. R. Sup. Ct. 5:11), the petitioner (appellant) has the responsibility to file a transcript of the initial trial with the proper appellate court. Generally speaking, you have the option of filing an official transcript or filing your own written statement of facts. Your best option to ensure that all information is viewable on appeal is to file a transcript. If you submit your own written statement of facts, material information could be inadvertently omitted.
- Submit a Petition for Appeal
Finally, you must build and submit a Petition for Appeal. By far, this is the most important and complicated part of the appeals process. Filing a Notice of Appeal and the official transcript are necessary—but it is your Petition that will determine your success, or lack thereof, in the appeals process. In the Petition for Appeal, you must provide legal grounds that clearly articulates why the trial court’s verdict should be reversed. What exactly a Petition for Appeal should entail will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.
Call Our Virginia Criminal Appeals Lawyers for Immediate Help
At Whitestone Young, PC, our Virginia criminal appeals attorneys provide aggressive, focused representation to clients. We are ready to review your case and help you explore every basis to raise a successful appeal. For additional information, contact our law firm to schedule a confidential consultation. With an office in Fairfax, we handle criminal appeals throughout Northern Virginia, including in Arlington, Tysons, Falls Church, Alexandria, Springfield, Reston, and Centreville.