APPEAL OF YOUR CRIMINAL TRIAL
This law firm has prepared over a hundred appeals. We handle criminal appeals on a regular basis. This is a very difficult time for you and your family. We hope that this short outline will help you get through the next few months a little more easily. It is designed to inform you of the appellate process in general terms.
NOTICE OF APPEAL
At the end of your trial, notice of appeal was given, telling the court that you wish to have the proceedings reviewed for errors in law by the appropriate appellate court (the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court) of North Carolina. The Court of Appeals will consider all criminal appeals other than death penalty cases.
You are entitled to only one "appeal of right." This is the only appeal in which you have a legal right to expect to be heard. We want to do our best to protect you and those rights. The appeal will review the proceedings in your case as reflected in the Record and the transcript of your trial and will determine if any errors in the law were committed. In order to get relief from the court, there must be legal error which was unfairly prejudicial to you committed during your trial proceedings. Relief might include a dismissal of the charges, the awarding of a new trial or a new sentencing hearing.
During your trial, a court reporter took notes of everything said. He or she will transcribe those notes into a typed record of the trial. Only when that transcript is delivered will your appeal be able to go forward.
The court reporter has 60 days to prepare the transcript. The reporter may ask the trial judge for an additional 30 days and the appellate court can be petitioned for more time to deliver the transcript. If you are indigent, your transcript will remain in our office for review until the appeal has been decided. Then it will be mailed to you.
THE PROPOSED RECORD
Your appeal lawyer is allowed 35 days from the time the transcript is delivered as time to put the court file together and serve a Proposed Record on Appeal. The trial judge may allow an additional 30 days if the lawyer requests it and the appellate court may allow even more time if it is appropriate.
During the 35 days after the transcript is delivered, it will be carefully reviewed and potential legal errors will be noted. The clerk's file documents will also be carefully reviewed and assembled. The Proposed Record will be served on the prosecutor, who then has about 21 days within which to request revisions.
ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR
The Proposed Record will include Assignments of Error. These are short statements of the suspected errors and show where in the Record they can be found. The Record will include a copy of the transcript of your trial. The Assignments of Error are needed to support arguments, presented in a Brief to the court, that there were unfairly prejudicial errors in your trial proceedings and that you are entitled to relief.
When the prosecutor and your lawyer argee on the Proposed Record, it becomes the Record on Appeal and is filed with the proper appellate court. If there is no agreement, a settlement conference will be held by a judge who will decide the contents of the Record. It is then filed with the proper appellate court.
The appellate court will print the Record and mail it back to your lawyer. Then there will be 30 days to prepare and serve the Brief. The Brief will contain our legal arguments and cite authorities where appropriate. The Brief will also recite the legal history of the proceedings and give a concise summary of some of the evidence presented at the trial. The Attorney General will then represent the State of north Carolina and will have 30 days to file his Brief in response to our arguments.
THE APPELLATE COURT
After both Briefs have been filed, the appellate court will place the matter on a calendar for consideration. They may allow your lawyer and the Attorney General to appear in person to argue the case. Usually, however, we are not permitted, under the provisions of Rule 30(f), to appear to argue. Under those circumstances, the case will then be decided based upon the law, the Briefs and the Record.
NO WITNESSES OR EVIDENCE
Appeals do not involve the use of new evidence. There will be no witnesses and no evidence presented. You will not be present at any time that the appellate court considers the case. The entire procedure often takes a year or more from the time notice of Appeal was given.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
It is important that we have your help in this process. Please take the time to write out all the things that you think were legal errors in the way your trial was conducted and send a copy to us as soon as possible. Do not wait for the transcript to be delivered by the court reporter as there is not enough time after it arrives. You will not see the transcript unless you have made independant arrangements for an extra copy.
The appeal is concluded by the filing of an Opinion by the appellate court. Opinions of the Court of Appeals are published on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. If your decision is published, a copy will be mailed to you, along with our analysis of the decision and your transcript. Be sure to keep this office informed of your current mailing address.
JOHN T. HALL
Attorney and Counsellor at Law
P. O. Box 50296
Raleigh, North Carolina 27650
(No collect calls are accepted.)
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