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A look at the Appeals Process

“We are going to appeal!”


Five words that mean a lot, and are often misunderstood when it comes to criminal law. Because of years of ingesting bad movies and television shows, many people have a vague idea of how and when an appeal can be done. While it seems like every case can get appealed, that’s just not so.


Here are five things to know about the appeals process:


It’s not a do-over

An appeal is generally a review of what the trial judge did during the trial. That is it. An appeal is not a second opportunity to rehear a case. The appeals process doesn’t have a jury. Attorneys typically do not call witnesses. The appeals court generally will accept the facts as they were revealed in the trial court, unless a factual finding is clearly against the weight of the evidence.


The appellate process

The party appealing generally is called the appellant. The other party is the appellee or the respondent. That is simple. The process starts with the filing of a notice of appeal. This filing marks the beginning of the time period within which the appellant must file a brief, a written argument containing that side's view of the facts and the legal arguments upon which they rely in seeking a reversal of the trial court. These are not typically long windows of time (weeks to a month and not multiple months), although the appeals court can grant extensions.


Criminal and civil cases differ

In a civil case, both the appellant or the respondent can appeal to a higher court. Under South Carolina law, in a criminal case, the State has very few opportunities to appeal. Appeals of acquittals by the prosecution after a verdict are not normally allowed because of the prohibition in the U. S. Constitution against double jeopardy, or being tried twice for the same crime.


How far can it go?

We often hear the phrase “we will take it to the Supreme Court,” but not all cases can go there. The U.S. Supreme Court only reviews cases that raise some federal or constitutional issue. That means that cases that are about state law exclusively are beyond the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. It’s simple, but many people struggle with that concept.


It’s complicated

The appeals process is very complex and requires the expertise of an attorney in filing and arguing appeals. Even if you've worked with an attorney for your trial, you may want to contact a lawyer who has experience in appellate courts for your appeal. Of course, Moorman Law is available to do this for any cases in South Carolina, whether they be in state court or federal court.



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