State criminal appeals

We have a great deal of experience in appealing state criminal convictions.   Our attorneys have argued criminal appeals to the Virginia Court of Appeals, to the Virginia Supreme Court, and even to the United States Supreme Court — see Turner v. Murray, 476 U.S. 28 (1986) (the oral argument can be heard here), and Smith v. Murray, 477 U.S. 527 (1986) (the oral argument can be heard here).

You can appeal a District Court ruling — whether from the General District Court or the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court — for any reason.  You would then get a new trial in the Circuit Court.  We can help you with an appeal to the Circuit Court.  There are a few cautions:

  • You must file a written notice of appeal within 10 days of the trial in the District Court, or — if there is a written order, as perhaps in a contested custody or visitation matter — within 10 days of the entry of the order.  If you don’t note your appeal within 10 days, you may be able to get the judge to reopen the case just for the purpose of re-starting the 10-day clock, but that is discretionary with the judge.  He or she doesn’t have to let you do it.
  • The Circuit Court might make a ruling that is worse for you than what the judge in the District Court did.  If that happens, you can’t go back and say, “Judge, let’s go back to the first trial.”

If you feel that your trial in the Circuit Court didn’t go well, and you want to appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals, we would be happy to help.  We have experience with appeals in criminal cases.  There are a few warnings, though:

  • You generally can’t appeal on the basis of  “the judge or jury believed the wrong side.”  You can generally only appeal errors of law that the judge may have made.  Perhaps he gave an incorrect jury instruction, or allowed inadmissible evidence to come in.  But not “I can’t believe that the judge believed their lying witness.”  If that is the only argument that you have, the odds of winning on appeal are pretty poor.
  • You can only appeal from issues that your lawyer at trial preserved at trial.  If your lawyer didn’t object to the evidence that you are upset about, or if she didn’t submit a jury instruction that you wish had been given, your appeal won’t be successful.  And if you didn’t have a court reporter and didn’t have a transcript made of the trial, you may have a very difficult time on appeal.
  • The odds of getting an appeal granted by the Virginia Court of Appeals are not high — they hear only a few hundred cases a year.   With a good lawyer, those chances can be increased, but no honest lawyer will be able to tell you that the Court of Appeals, or the Supreme Court, will definitely grant your appeal and reverse the lower court decision.
  • You will have to pay the costs of having the transcript typed up, and you will have to pay attorneys’ fees.  The expense of the transcript could range from $300 for a short trial to $1,000 or more for a longer trial.  Attorney’s fees for a full appeal could easily hit $10,000, or more.

We will review a case, including reading the transcript, for a fixed fee, and then give you an opinion as to whether there is any good appeal issue.  We don’t want to waste your time and money, and our reputation with the Courts, by making an appeal when there is no real chance of success.  If you would like to talk with us about having your case appealed, please call us at 434-293-8185.