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Criminal defense: How does the appeals process work?

Some people in Maryland believe that a criminal case ends once a verdict has been handed down. However, in some felony criminal trials, a defendant still has the right to exercise an appeal after being convicted. But what exactly is an appeal, and how does the process usually work?

An appeal is a legal request that the defendant and his or her attorney send out to a higher court asking it to review certain aspects of the trial where the defendant was found guilty of the criminal charges filed by the prosecution. In the argument, the defense team asks the court to re-examine certain parts of the previous trial, citing areas where they believe that the original court misinterpreted legal procedures. In a criminal trial, only the defendant may appeal to a higher court.

The first step in the appeals process is for an attorney to file a notice of appeal. This basically just announces that the defense means to challenge certain aspects of the previous trial. The next step is to file a brief which is where the defense lays out their argument why the decision by the previous court must be overturned. After this, the attorney representing the other side of the case has a certain amount of time to respond to the initial brief. Once this is done then the defense team may need to file another brief in order to respond to the other side's brief.

Depending on the court itself, the next step in the process may be for both sides to present oral arguments in front of the court. Based on the oral arguments presented, the appeals court will then make a decision based on the evidence presented to them.

If the appeals court reaches the same decision as the lower court, the defense team may decide once again to appeal to a higher state court. However, any Maryland resident who has been convicted of a felony charge may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney in order to find out if filing an appeal in their case may be a worthwhile endeavor.

Source: americanbar.org, "Steps in a trial," Accessed June 6, 2016

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