Appeals offer convicted defendants an opportunity to have a higher court review the process that lead to conviction in order to ensure that this process was fair to the defendant and handled in accordance with State and Federal Constitutional protections. Appeals are a powerful way to correct certain errors or miscarriages of justice committed by prosecutors, police, or criminal courts; they are not, however, a chance for a second trial. Appeals courts do not generally accept new evidence, do not conduct a full trial, do not submit facts to any jury, and do not question witnesses. What they do instead, is review the decisions made by the trial court and the conduct of the parties involved to determine if there has been any violation of the substantive rights of either party. Both prosecutors and defendants can file an appeal. Convictions handed down by a California criminal court can be appealed to the California Court of Appeal while Federal convictions are appealed directly to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
The appeals process is complex and should be handled by an experienced post-conviction attorney who understands how to navigate the system. Far too many people misunderstand the nature or purpose of criminal appeals and, as such, take an ineffective approach to the process. Unfortunately, appeals are not unlimited and must be handled properly the first time around to avoid jeopardizing your Constitutional rights.