Appeals, Habeas Corpus and Post Conviction Relief

Georgia Appeals, Habeas Corpus and Post-Conviction Relief

At Strom Law Firm, we can provide you representation in state and federal appeals courts in Georgia and South Carolina, including such courts as the Georgia Court of Appeals, South Carolina Court of Appeals, Georgia Supreme Court, South Carolina Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth and Eleventh Circuits, and the United States Supreme Court.

There may be any number of reasons to file an appeal a criminal case. Usually, appeals of a felony or misdemeanor arise when someone has been convicted of a crime after a trial, either by a judge or jury. It is not uncommon for trial judges to make errors with evidence, proper criminal procedure, or sentencing during the course of a bench trial or jury trial. In order to get a new trial, a criminal appeal may be the only way to attempt to correct those errors when a defendant has been convicted of a crime. Even if there were no serious errors, such as a violation of Constitutional Rights in the court trial or jury trial, the defendant may wish to appeal a portion of the judgment or criminal sentence to the appropriate court of appeals. This is especially true where the sentence to jail or state prison is significantly harsher than it should have been. And in certain circumstances, release on bond can be approved while an appeal is pending. Also, if the trial judge improperly admitted certain evidence into trial – or refused to suppress evidence which should have been suppressed under state law or the United States Constitution – this may be grounds for an appeal as well.

You should be aware that there are certain critical time limitations which often apply for filing an appeal of a criminal conviction. In federal cases, you must file your notice of appeal within fourteen days after sentencing.  In Georgia, the time limit to file a notice of appeal is extended and is thirty days from the date of sentencing.  In South Carolina notice of appeal must be filed within ten days of sentencing.  If those short time deadlines are missed, it will usually mean that the opportunity to appeal the case has been lost. Therefore, if you are considering an appeal of a criminal conviction or administrative decision, it is very important to act quickly and call Strom Law Firm.

What is an Appeal?

An appeal is a request to a higher court to review a decision made in a completed trial or guilty plea proceeding. Most legal disputes are initially decided by trial courts. After a trial or proceeding is completed and the losing party is dissatisfied with the outcome and believes an error was made that adversely affected the result, he or she may ask the trial court judge to overturn the decision or to order a new trial. If the judge denies the request, the losing party may file an appeal in the appropriate appellate court.

What do the appellate courts decide?

Appellate courts decide questions of law, such as whether the district court judge, superior court judge, or general sessions court judge applied the law correctly in a case. Appellate Courts do not hear testimony or retry cases. An appeal from a trial court judgment is decided based on the record from the original trial or proceeding. Issues brought to an appellate court for review commonly include claims such as an incorrect ruling on admissibility of evidence, incorrect application of a law or regulation, improper jury instructions, insufficient evidence to support the verdict, or an improper sentence.

How does the Appeal Process work?

To begin the appeal process, a written notice of appeal is filed with the clerk of the court in which the proceeding took place. The party filing the appeal must request that a transcript of the proceedings be prepared by the court reporter. All parties are notified once the record on appeal has been filed with the appellate court.

From the date the record was filed, the appellant has a specified period of time within which to file an appellant’s opening brief, depending on the type of case. A “brief” is a written argument that an attorney prepares for the court. It details the issues raised by the appellant, including challenges to superior court rulings or findings, and refers to applicable statutes (laws) and previous case decisions to support their position. The respondent is then given an opportunity to file a brief in response and then the appellant may file a reply brief.

Once the briefs have been filed the case is randomly assigned to a panel of judges. An oral argument may be scheduled and the judges review the briefs and a memorandum that has been prepared concerning the appeal. Oral argument gives the judges the opportunity to ask the attorney concerning the issues raised.

After the panel of judges has heard oral argument, a member of the panel prepares and files an opinion, which is a written statement of the court’s decision.  In many cases, the decision of the appellate court may be appealed to the state supreme court or United States Supreme Court.

Habeas Corpus and Post Conviction Relief

If a jury finds the defendant guilty, he or she should immediately file a Motion for New Trial challenging any and all errors at trial.  Often times, the challenge will be for ineffective assistance of counsel.  As a result, it might be wise to retain a different attorney to review the trial transcript and pursue the Motion for New Trial.  Moreover, the Motion for New Trial sets up arguments for Appeal.  After exhaustion of appeals, a defendant may file a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Georgia) or an Application for Post-Conviction Relief (South Carolina), challenging the constitutionality of his or her conviction.  Strom Law Firm will represent Habeas Corpus petitioners in Georgia Superior Courts, the Georgia Supreme Court, and in Federal Court and represent PCR applicants in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, South Carolina Supreme Court, and in Federal Court.