First Steps in Filing an Appeal

Post-Trial Procedure in a Criminal Case

The First Steps in Filing a Criminal Appeal

If a motion for a new trial has been denied, the next legal step may be to file an appeal. A criminal appeal asks a higher court to reconsider the decision by a lower trial court based on a review of the trial records. Even when a new trial is not being sought, there are still other reasons to file an appeal.

An appeal is not a request for a new trial and the appellant may not submit new evidence except under strict guidelines and unique circumstances (i.e., new DNA evidence that could prove innocence). An appeal is a request for a higher supervisory court to review the decision of another court to assess whether the decision is legally sound and that the law was properly followed and applied in the verdict and sentencing.

The first step is to hire an experienced appellate lawyer. It is not uncommon for a defendant to hire a new lawyer to handle an appeal because the appeals process is vastly different from the criminal defense law that governs plea bargains and trials.

The next step is to notify the proper court of the intent to appeal a decision. This is done by filing a Claim of Appeal. Documents need to be requested and filed with both the proper court of appeal and with the trial court within a certain statute of limitations (time frame).

Important Definitions

Appeal: A formal request to a supervisory or higher court to change the legal ruling of a lower court. The process of exercising the right to submit a request for review of a decision made by another court is referred to as an "appeal" or "to take an appeal.”

Appellant: The party appealing a decision or judgment to a higher court.

Appellee: The party responding to an appeal.

Two Types of Appeals

There are two main types of appeals filed in criminal cases:

  • Appeal by Application for Leave: This type of appeal requires permission from the higher court before an appeal can be filed. In Michigan, the circuit court has the final discretion to accept or reject an Appeal by Application.
  • Appeal of Right: This is an appeal made to a higher court that does not require permission from the court before it can be filed.

Record of Appeal and Other Documents

Documents to be filed with the appellate court include:

  • Filing Fee
  • True Copy of Bond (if applicable)
  • Proof of Service
  • Original Claim of Appeal
  • Copy of order or judgment appealed from
  • Copy of Trial Court Docket
  • Jurisdiction Checklist
  • Docketing Statement
  • Statement from attorney or certificate from court reporter that transcripts have been ordered, or that there is no record to be transcribed

Documents to be filed with the trial court include:

  • Trial Court Fee
  • Bond (if applicable)
  • Copy of the Claim of Appeal
  • Certificate of court reporter stating that the transcript has been ordered, or that there is no record to be transcribed

A Record of Appeal includes a copy of:

  • Clerk’s Transcript (written record during trial)
  • Court Reporter’s Transcript
  • All motions filed
  • Jury instructions

The Court of Appeals must have a complete written record before it can proceed.

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