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The legal team at Stewart, Schmidlin, Bullock & Gourley, PLLC


An appeal is made after a trial has taken place and a sentence has been given. In an appeal you are not allowed to bring in new witnesses or submit new evidence. An appeal can consider only issues that are “on the record,” which means that files of the trial court and the court reporter’s documents can be re-examined. No new witnesses can be called and no new evidence can be presented. A panel of three judges will hear your case and look into whether or not the law was followed during court proceedings. Even if a rule is found to be broken, this does not necessarily mean that your case will be reversed. The error must have “prejudice”, meaning the error must have potentially altered the outcome of the trial. The goal of an appeal is to determine a number of trial errors:

  • Evidence may have been used that shouldn’t have been submitted
  • Helpful evidence was kept out of trial wrongfully.
  • A wrong law may have been applied.
  • An attorney may have made an inappropriate argument.
  • The instructions to the jury may have been confusing or misleading.

In order to begin your appeal our criminal law firm first conducts an evaluation of the criminal case to determine possible courses of action and decide whether such action should be taken. A number of courses are taken at this stage where a criminal defense attorney will review transcripts, talk to probation officers, interview prior criminal attorneys, interview witnesses, review the discovery package, review court orders, converse with the District Attorney, look into possible alternative defenses, and research relevant statutory and case laws.

After all this is done, and the criminal lawyer handling the case feels that there is enough grounds for appeal we then file the necessary motions to have your case re-heard. There are seven steps that you can expect during an appeal. The first is the Preparation of the Record where the trial court clerk begins preparing the court records to be reviewed by the criminal attorneys and judges. This can take several weeks to several months depending upon the length of the trial. The second step is The Appellant’s Opening Brief where the defendant’s appellate attorney describes the court procedure, facts of the case, and presents the arguments describing how the court proceeding did not follow the law. The next step is The Respondent’s Brief, this is a written statement of the prosecutor responding to the defendant’s arguments usually stating that no errors were made, or if there were errors, they were minimal and had no bearing on the outcome of the case. The fourth step is the Appellant’s Reply Brief, which is an optional response to the prosecutor’s arguments. After all of the briefs have been filled, the case then moves to Oral Argument where both sides have a chance to present to the judges their arguments in person. The client will not be present. In most cases oral arguments are not made. The next to last stage is The Opinion; here the judges decide your case and determine whether you should have a re-trial, a new sentencing or your case will be “affirmed”, meaning the lower court’s decision will not be altered. The last chance you have in an appeal is a Petition for Rehearing. If the decision is not in your favor, then the appellate attorney can plead that the courts re-hear the case. The prosecutors can also petition the court if the decision is against them.

If any of these things can be proven to the panel of judges then the defendant may have a chance to get the case overturned or overruled and get the court to reverse their decision.
If the conviction is reversed, then the accused may get a new trial or get a sentence reduction.

Our criminal attorneys understand the frustration, disappointment and fear that a guilty sentence can bring. Often an appeal is the last chance the convicted have to prevent themselves from going to jail for a very long time. Because of this, a good criminal attorney is needed that understands the nuances of the law. Your appeal is important and we take the time to look into the specific facts of your case in order to mount an aggressive appellate case. We will file every motion needed to get you the best possible outcome.

We are not afraid to bump shoulders with the prosecutor or D.A.’s office and we will discredit and attack the credibility of anyone and everyone who is in your way to freedom. We will dissect your case and determine which errors were committed during pre-trial and trial procedures. If your criminal attorney did not make the necessary arguments, if the prosecutor held discovery evidence, if the judge ill-advised the jury, if the jury was influenced by the media or other outside sources, we will attack these foundations and aggressively pursue getting the appeal granted. Call Stewart, Schmidlin, Bullock & Gourley, PLLC, in Smithfield at 919-989-8900 now for a consultation.