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How do I File a Criminal Appeal?

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  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2016
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To file a criminal appeal, start by obtaining the rules of criminal procedure for the jurisdiction that will review the case. The process of filing a criminal appeal varies for each jurisdiction. The rules of criminal procedure provide the exact steps that you must follow. You must also obtain a court’s local rules of criminal procedure, which consist of a separate set of rules that control how a specific court processes a case.

Filing a criminal appeal can be complicated. Rather than handling it on your own, i.e, pro se, it is usually wise to hire a criminal defense lawyer with experience with the procedures of a specific jurisdiction as well as the law governing criminal appeals. In this way, a lawyer can help you avoid technical problems with filing an appeal. For instance, a layperson may face a tremendous amount of stress and difficulty preparing documents and meeting deadlines. A lawyer likely knows the court’s requirements and will likely have an easier time preparing documents for the appeal.

In some instances, you may be entitled to have a free lawyer to help pursue a criminal appeal. This usually depends on whether you are indigent or of low income. It will also likely depend on the severity of punishment that the court may impose for a particular criminal offense. Free legal representation in filing a criminal appeal is worth investigating because, as noted above, a lawyer may also improve your chances of success.

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In many jurisdictions, courts typically require you to file a notice of appeal. This document informs the prosecution, the court, and other interested parties that you plan to file or have already filed an appeal. You can usually obtain the form for a notice of appeal through the court. This document is also likely contained in the forms section of the criminal rules of procedure.

After the appropriate documents are prepared for a criminal appeal, make enough copies for all the parties involved in the case. The documents must be submitted to the court clerk. The clerk will endorse the documents, which means date-stamping them. The court will keep the original and return the copies.

Courts typically require payment of a filing fee at the time you file a criminal appeal. Courts may waive this fee for indigent or low-income persons. To qualify, file a motion requesting a waiver from the court.

The party filing the criminal appeal is responsible for serving copies of the appeal to parties involved in the case. Depending on the local rules, you can serve the documents via certified mail or hire a private process server or sheriff to hand-deliver the documents. Each jurisdiction has specific rules about how to make proper service.

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