The appeals process is difficult, lengthy, and confusing. Here are some of the basics of the process to help you understand how the courts work.

The appeals process is a confusing one for many and can be a major cause for concern if you’ve been convicted. However, understanding some fundamental aspects will help clarify the overall process. We will cover the structure, circumstances, and nuances of filing an appeal.


General Structure of the Appeals Process

Understanding the structure of the court system is an important aspect of the appeals process. Each state has its own rules for the appellate procedure, but the hierarchy for both State and Federal courts is essentially the same. There are trial courts, intermediate appellate courts, and supreme courts.

Defendants convicted in a trial court may make an appeal to the intermediate appellate court in the form of a written brief. A defendant can appeal to the state supreme court if the intermediate appellate court upholds the conviction; however, supreme courts have discretion as to which cases they will hear.

lawyers confer with a female judge

The Circumstances Necessary to File an Appeal

The first step in filing an appeal is the defendant must wait for conviction or decision of the lower court before taking any further action. Once a decision has been rendered by the lower court, the defendant may begin the written appeals process to the next court in the hierarchy.

In order for a defendant to file an appeal, there must have been a legal error made by the court during the trial. Appellate courts examine the case to determine if the law was applied correctly and if all procedures were properly followed by the court.


There are Several Common Legal Errors that Warrant an Appeal:

  • The judge makes an error in any of his instructions to the jury.
  • Inadmissible evidence was allowed into trial.
  • There is a lack of convincing evidence to support a guilty verdict.

If any of these legal errors occur in a trial the defendant may appeal to an intermediate appellate court. The defendant can appeal to the state supreme court if the intermediate appellate court upholds the conviction.

legal documents being reviewed by legal professionals

Nuances of Filing an Appeal

The appeals process exists to minimize wrongful convictions. Therefore, it is important to know that the prosecutor in a case cannot appeal an acquittal in a criminal case. Nor may the prosecutor put the same defendant on trial for the same charge with the same evidence. This practice is called Double Jeopardy and the United States Constitution expressly prohibits it.

A prosecutor cannot appeal an acquittal; however, they may appeal the new trial order issued by the judge if the prosecution believes the legal error cited in the defendant’s appeal is invalid.

Either side may appeal a court’s ruling if it is not a criminal trial.

We’re happy to help with your appeal. The appeals process can be complicated and frustrating, but here at Esplin | Weight, we can help you make the most of a tough situation. Call us today at 801-373-4912 or come into our Provo office to discuss your options for appeal.