Florida criminal appeals attorney / Kenneth Padowitz, P.A.

Understanding Criminal Appeals

Navigating the appellate process is complex and challenging, even for most attorneys. At Kenneth Padowitz, P.A., we handle State and Federal appeals in a wide-range of legal fields, with a specialty in criminal appeals, leveraging our extensive criminal law trial experience to provide sophisticated representation for clients seeking to overturn wrongful convictions, reduce unfair sentences, or obtain accountability for legal errors and an unfair trial.

Types of Cases Heard on Appeal

Criminal Appeals

A criminal appeal is initiated to review a decision made in a criminal case brought by the state. This can include direct appeals following a conviction in circuit court. It’s important to note that if a defendant entered a guilty or no contest plea, the grounds for an appeal are significantly limited, as specified in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.140(b)(2).

Key Points:
  • Who Can File: Defendants convicted of a crime can file a direct appeal of their conviction and sentence to the District Court of Appeal.
  • Restrictions: Defendants generally cannot appeal pre-trial orders, but the State of Florida can appeal certain pre-trial orders such as those suppressing evidence or dismissing charges.
  • Extraordinary Writs: The district court also handles extraordinary writs like habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus, or prohibition in exceptional circumstances, both before and after judgment.

Civil Appeals

Civil appeals review decisions from civil cases, commonly final orders or judgments from circuit courts. Some pre-final judgment orders can also be appealed under specific conditions outlined in Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.130(a).

Key Points:
  • Scope: Appeals can include probate and guardianship cases, certain orders from circuit courts, and administrative actions.
  • Limitations: There is generally no right of appeal beyond the district court of appeal unless specific criteria are met for Florida Supreme Court review.

The Basics of the Appellate Process

What is an Appeal?

An appeal reviews trial court decisions to determine if legal errors occurred that affected the case’s outcome. It is not a retrial but a legal argument focused on potential mistakes made during the original trial.

Key Participants:
  • Appellant: The party filing the appeal.
  • Appellee: The opposing party seeking to uphold the trial court’s decision – in a criminal case, this is the Government (State Attorney’s Office in Florida State Court; U.S. Department of Justice in Federal Court).

Starting an Appeal

An appeal begins by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Clerk of the lower court within the time limits set by the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, usually within 30 days. Filing fees apply, and the notice must be forwarded to the District Court of Appeal.

Steps in the Appellate Process:

  1. The Record: Consists of documents and transcripts from the trial court. The appellant must direct the Clerk of the Circuit Court on which documents to include.
  2. Transcripts: Arrangements for trial transcripts must be made promptly, as they are essential for the appeal.
  3. Briefs: Written arguments explaining why the trial court’s decision should be overturned (appellant) or upheld (appellee).
  4. Oral Argument: Parties may request to present their case in person, subject to the court’s discretion.
  5. Court Decision: The appellate court reviews briefs, records, and any oral arguments to reach a decision, which is communicated in a written notice.
  6. Motion for Rehearing: If the appeal is denied, a motion for rehearing can be filed if there are grounds to believe the court overlooked or misunderstood aspects of the case.
  7. Mandate: Issued once the appeal is concluded, returning control of the case to the trial court.

Preservation of Error is Extremely Important

Generally, errors must be preserved by objection during the trial to be considered on appeal – the limited exception to this general rule would apply only when the Appellate Court determines a Fundamental Error has occurred. Not all errors lead to reversal; only those deemed harmful enough to have affected the trial’s outcome will do so. Inexperienced lawyers often fail to properly object or lay a record in hearing or at trial, which ultimately hurts the client if an appeal is needed at a later date. Proper objections are essential to preserving an ability to appeal.

Why Choose Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. for Your Criminal Appeal?

Our firm stands out for its expertise, personalized approach, and proven results in handling criminal appeals. We understand the stakes and are dedicated to achieving justice for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you navigate the complexities of the appellate process with confidence and skill.

Additional Resource: https://flabarappellate.org/the-pro-se-handbook/


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