Charles L. Truncale
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A Former Federal Prosecutor Who Now Fights For Defendants

Three common myths about the appeals process

A criminal conviction can affect your life in many ways. You may be facing jail, fines and it can follow you when you are searching for employment or housing. A conviction can hurt your family and other relationships. A wrongful conviction also feels incredibly unfair and can lead to feelings of depression and anger.

Before you give into feelings of despair, you may consider appealing your criminal conviction. Just remember, the appeals process is not exactly how it appears on Law & Order or NCIS. Like many other things, TV glosses over much of what happens during the appeals process. Here are three common myths about appealing your criminal conviction.

Myth number one: An appeal is like a second trial

An appeal to your conviction does not provide you with the opportunity to retry your case. Rather, the appellate court reviews decisions the other court made to see if legal errors happened.

Myth number two: Making an appeal without a lawyer is not a big deal

Though an appeal is not retrial of your case, whoever is representing you will be expected to obey the Florida Rules of the Appellate Procedure. If you choose to represent yourself, you must follow these rules. Any failure to abide by the appellate rules could result in your appeal being dismissed.

To present an appeal, you will also need to give a convincing oral and written argument. This is not easy to do. Some attorneys avoid taking appeals cases because the process is too complex.

Myth number three: Any error means your conviction will be overturned

Figuring out the trial court made an error may help your appeal, but it does not guarantee your conviction will be overturned. When reviewing an appeal, the appellate court must decide whether the mistake was harmful to the case. A harmful error affects the outcome of the trial. If the mistake did not change the course of the trial, it may not be enough for a reversal of the court’s decision.

Although winning an appeal may look easy on TV, the real process requires a lot of research and a deep knowledge of the law. If you are thinking about appealing your conviction, you may want to reach out to an attorney that specializes in filing appeals for criminal convictions.

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