Over the last few weeks, our blog has been taking an in-depth look at Florida's appellate court system, whose judges are tasked with reviewing the decisions of the state's lower courts in order to determine whether harmful legal errors have occurred.
Our purpose in doing this has been to help clarify what can understandably seem like an arcane process to those outside of legal circles and, perhaps more significantly, to drive home the point to those convicted of felony-level offenses that they have not run out of options.
In today's post, we'll pick up where our last post left off, examining how Florida'sappellate process works and some of the other realities of which appellants -- i.e., those pursuing appeals -- should be aware.
If the appellant would like to present their arguments to the appeals court, a separate written request must be filed with the clerk of the appellate court. It's important to understand that completing this step is by no means a guarantee that the court will actually grant the request.
In the event the request for oral arguments is granted, the appellant will be given anywhere from ten to 20 minutes to present their arguments and answer direct inquires from the three-judge panel. With the exception of a few weeks, oral arguments are held year-round.
Once the briefs have been reviewed, oral arguments have been heard, and additional research conducted, the three appellate judges will come together for a conference to discuss the issues presented the case and arrive at a determination.
Once this determination is made, the appellant will receive written notice from the court in one of the following forms:
- A written notice indicating that the decision of the trial court is affirmed (i.e., upheld). Here, a copy of a written opinion may be included.
- A written opinion reversing the decision of the trial court that outlines both the reasons for the decision and instructions for the presiding judge.
Grounds for criminal appeals
While a complete listing of the grounds on which a criminal appeal may be pursued is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, some of the more notable bases include:
- Erroneous jury instructions
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Violations of Miranda rights
- Violations of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures
As a final note, anyone considering an appeal must remember that the appellate court cannot consider whether a harmful legal error occurred if the matter is not preserved by objection in the trial court.
If you have been convicted of a felony-level criminal offense and would like to learn more about your rights and your options as they relate to the appellate process here in Florida, consider contacting the Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A. We have more than 30 years of experience in this area -- at both the state and federal level -- and are ready to help you take the necessary action.