An Overview of the Criminal Appeals Process in New York

We see this scenario on TV all the time. Without it, there’d be no ‘drama’ in courtroom dramas.

An unlucky defendant has just been convicted of a crime that could have them spending the rest of their lives in prison or, for extra intensity value, on Death Row. The courtroom erupts, but counsel for the defense promptly reassures their client, “We’ll appeal it.”

What does ‘appealing it’ actually mean in a criminal case?

In New York, a defendant who has been convicted in a criminal case has the automatic right to appeal to a higher court. Appeals in felony cases are heard by the Appellate Division while Appellate Terms and certain county courts are the next step up in misdemeanor cases. If the defendant’s appeal is rejected by any of these courts, they may apply to the New York Court of Appeals, but this court is not obligated to hear the case.

Launching an Appeal

The appeal process begins when a defendant’s attorney files and serves a Notice of Appeal. This document contains the following information:

  • The judgment or order being challenged
  • The court which issued the appealed judgment or order
  • The court being applied to

Some appeals are ‘by permission’ only, meaning that the right to appeal to a particular court is not automatic. A typical example is approaching the New York Court of Appeals to challenge a ruling by the Appellate Division.

Appeal Components

A New York criminal appeal consists of the following:

  • Record: These documents are defined by statute and usually include the trial transcript.
  • Appellant’s Brief: This component asserts that the original trial court made legal errors and lists the issues being raised on appeal. Each one is stated in a ‘point’ that presents the legal argument on the matter.
  • Respondent’s Brief: This brief is presented by the party who won the case in trial court, and lists the reasons why the original decision should be allowed to stand.
  • Reply Brief: In this optional document, the appellant may ‘reply’ to the respondent’s arguments.
  • Oral Argument: The attorneys for both sides appear before the appellate court to argue their cases. While many courts permit oral argument as of right, others allow it only by permission.
  • Court’s Decision: The appellate court issues a written opinion or decision on the appeal. In most cases, it explains the reasons for affirming or reversing the original decision.

Criminal appeals are intricate processes governed by complicated legal rules. If you have been convicted of a crime in a New York trial group and seek representation for your appeal, contact the Levoritz Law Group immediately. Attorneys Tony Mirvis and Miechia Gulley are seasoned and aggressive appellate attorneys who will put their years of experience in the state and federal court system to work for you.