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Criminal Appellate Law

If you have a case in a Weddington, North Carolina criminal court and you lose, your first thought will likely be about how can you appeal this decision. As an initial matter, the term “appellate law” is not entirely accurate. There is not really an “appellate” area of the law. Instead, an appeal is made in a variety of different cases and in varying contexts, whether civil or criminal. The procedures governing appeals differ depending on several things including the facts of the case, the applicable law that governs, the lower court or tribunal that had jurisdiction to hear the matter, and other factors. In short, “appellate law” is a legal concept that is extremely complicated, to say the least.

Criminal Cases Explained

In the context of criminal cases, the state of North Carolina or the federal government charges a defendant with a crime or crimes. Unless the state of North Carolina or the federal government drops the charges, or the person charged with the crimes pleads guilty, a trial occurs inside a courtroom. During the trial proceedings, the state or federal government introduces various pieces of evidence to prove their case. The standard in order for a judge and/or jury to find a person guilty of a crime is beyond a reasonable doubt. Likewise, the person accused of the crime has the opportunity to introduce evidence of his or her innocence. The defendant is not required to introduce evidence or take the stand but, rather, has the choice to do so. Indeed, an accused can waive his or her defense and then argue before a judge or jury - with or without the assistance of legal counsel - that the government failed to prove its case. At the end of the trial, the judge or jury determines whether or not the accused is guilty or innocent of the crime(s).

Appealing a Criminal Case

It is critical to understand that appealing a criminal case can be a significantly complicated process. Even determining the proper appellate court in which to file your appeal can be confusing. Under North Carolina law, all appeals are governed by the state’s Rules of Appellate Procedure. The state’s appellate rules set out everything an appellant is required to do - as well as what he or she should not do - when appealing a case from state and/or administrative courts in North Carolina. Before explaining the rules, we will first address the most common types of appeals.

Common Types of Appeals

There are several common types of appeals that take place before an appellant petitions to a North Carolina appellate court.

A considerable amount of criminal cases begin in North Carolina District Court, including most misdemeanor criminal cases and driving while impaired (DWI) cases. If a defendant is convicted of a crime in North Carolina District Court, he or she may immediately – or by providing written notice within 10 days to the court – appeal the decision to the Superior Court of North Carolina.

Most felony cases, including serious crimes such as rape, murder, robbery, arson, burglary and others, are prosecuted in Superior Court. If a defendant is convicted of a crime in North Carolina’s Superior Court, he or she may appeal the decision to either the North Carolina Court of Appeals or the North Carolina Supreme Court. North Carolina law authorizes its state supreme court to hear only a limited number of cases appealed directly to this higher court. For this reason, most appeals of Superior Court decisions are made to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Both state courts of appeal are physically located in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Appealing the Appellate Decision

If a North Carolina state court of appeals affirms the lower court’s conviction, the defendant/appellant may further appeal the decisions to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Located in Richmond, Virginia, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is a federal court with jurisdiction over courts in North Carolina as well as Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. In order for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to consider the case, it must involve a matter of great importance. If an appellant loses his or her appeal before the 4th Circuit, he or she may appeal to the United States Supreme Court, which may or may not hear the case.

Appellate Help in Union County

As can be seen, appealing a criminal case in Weddington is extremely complicated. Depending on the facts and procedural posture of your case, there may be multiple appeals available with several courts ruling on your case before it is finally resolved. If you are considering appealing your Weddington criminal case, contact the skilled attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Our firm is experienced in fighting on behalf of clients in state and federal courts, and our attorneys are well-versed in appellate procedure. The deadline to give notice to the court of your appeal is short, so do not delay and call us right away at 704-370-2828