Understanding the Criminal Appeals Process

If you are found guilty of a crime, but feel that the law wasn’t applied correctly or adequately in your case, you have the right to appeal. Whether the conviction takes place at the federal or state level, you can still try to appeal it by arguing that there was a mistake made during the trial that could have influenced the jury against you, and ultimately affected the outcome.

The handling of appeals cases is very different from the trial phase. Neither party can include new evidence or bring forward new witnesses, and no jury is present. Instead, your case goes to appeals court, which is typically made up of three judges who look over what happened during the initial trial.

Lawyers for each side can submit written briefs detailing why they feel the conviction should be overturned or remain, and sometimes the judges will hear oral arguments from the lawyers as well. The judges will review all the details and respond with a written decision about whether the guilty verdict will be overturned or affirmed.

The Appeals Process in South Carolina

There is a three-stage court system in South Carolina when a person is charged with a crime.  The Court of General Sessions, which is in the criminal division of the South Carolina Circuit Court, is where the trial phase plays out.

In the majority of cases, if the person wants to appeal their conviction, they do so at the Court of Appeals. If the judges at the Court of Appeals rule that the conviction should remain, a person can try to appeal again, and this time the appeal goes to the South Carolina Supreme Court. It is important to note, however, that this court is not obligated to hear the case.

There are exceptions, such as when a person receives the death sentence, where the appeal would go straight to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Also, in specific circumstances, some state cases may be appealed in the federal courts or even in the U.S. Supreme Court, though instances of appeals taking this route are infrequent.

The Federal Appeals Process in South Carolina

The federal appeals process is quite similar to that of state cases. There are again three levels.

First, a person must appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Once the appeal is made, a panel of judges will review the case, read the briefs submitted by the lawyers, and may hear the lawyers for each side argue their case in open court. No live testimony is presented to the judges, and the judges must make their decision based solely on the record of the initial trial and subsequent arguments from the lawyers as to whether a new trial is necessary.

Once the U.S. Court of Appeals makes a decision, this decision can be only be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, though it is unlikely an appeal at this level will be granted.

The appeals process is by no means expeditious, and it can take around two years after the original trial before a person might learn the decision of their appeal.

If you have been convicted of a crime in South Carolina and wish to appeal, you need a criminal defense lawyer with the knowledge and experience for such cases. That’s where the Complete Legal Defense Team can help. Call us today at 843-321-4968 for a confidential consultation.

Written by Greg McCollum CLDT

Greg McCollum CLDT

At the Complete Legal Defense Team we represent, assist, and defend people who are accused of crimes. Being accused of a crime is a harrowing experience. You experience public shame and humiliation and do not know where to turn for help. We are experienced and knowledgeable and will take immediate steps to begin repairing your life. We evaluate how the allegation affects your reputation in the community, how it affects your time and your life, and how it will affect you financially. Believe it or not, many people who are arrested and charged with crimes are innocent.