The banging of the gavel is supposed to be the end. The final sentence. But what if it’s wrong? How is justice served?
After the time, stress and money of a trial, many people are still upset and unsatisfied when their trial finishes. If justice is not served, there are options, but they come with conditions to limit abuse of the system. After all, if there were no limits, every guilty ruling would cycle endlessly. Appeals are a common method used to review a case.
Who is eligible for an appeal?
By and large, the judicial branch serves justice on the first try. Appeals are not a redo; they are a judicial correction. A criminal case is only eligible for appeal if there was a legal mistake, such as improper evidence, a paperwork mistake or another process error. An appeal cannot enter new evidence and it’s not a retrial; it’s a review of the legal process that was used in the previous trial. It is not a retrial, but it can lead to a separate retrial in certain circumstances.
If a case is appealed and reversed, options might include a new trial, a modification of the judge’s original decision, or asking the court to reconsider the case based on a new legal precedent or different information.
How does the process work?
Imagine you or a loved one were found guilty, but something was wrong with the original trial. What comes next?
In North Carolina, there are fifteen judges who monitor appeals. A panel of three judges from that group will review an appellate case.
- First, the appellant files a notice of appeal.
- Second, the appellant must file a brief, explaining the reason for the appeal.
- Next, the court considers the brief — there may be oral arguments, or the panel of judges may decide without any additional arguments.
- The court issues its decision. In some cases this includes written statements from the majority and any dissenting opinions.
What if I still disagree with the ruling?
Our legal system is complex, and criminal charges can go a number of different ways. Every case is dependent on specific details that range from the alleged crime, to how and where it took place. The appeal will then depend on how evidence was gathered or presented, what your attorney did, and even how other recent cases have been decided. State and federal charges have different rules and processes, and state rulings are subject to habeas corpus (oversite by federal courts).
It’s natural after any conviction to wonder what options are available, how the appeal process works, and what is best for your situation. Appeals are an important, and necessary, way to ensure that everyone gets a fair trial.