Criminal Appeals in Texas
How do criminal appeals work in Texas? Here is what you need to know
A conviction does not always mean the end of the road for your case, your lawyer and the judge will inform you of your legal rights to appeal the court’s decision. Filing for an appeal means that you are requesting a higher court in the judicial system to review the decision made on your case to decide whether it is fair or unfair.
The Criminal Appeal Process in Texas
Cases on appeals don’t entail new witnesses or evidence; they involve reviewing the case for any errors during the trial. The reviews include the examination of the clerk’s records and the reporter’s notes concerning the case. These transcripts should be acquired by your attorney in preparation for the case.
Motion for a New Trial
The defendant also has a legal right to file a motion for new trial simultaneously. In the event that the deadline for submitting a notice of appeal is extended, the defendant will then have 90 days in both a criminal and civil case from the date that the judgment is pronounced by the court to submit a notice of appeal as stipulated in the Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure section 26.2.
Filing a motion of new trial is a key strategy used by the defense team to present any errors regarding the case that are not available on the record, such as the evidence that shows the misconduct of a juror according to the Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 21.3. It is important to note that a motion for a new trial has no effect on the jurisdiction of the court hence enabling the trial court to provide a ruling on the case notwithstanding the motion.
The deadline to file a motion of new trial is within 30 days from the date that the court imposes a sentence in open court and the motion can then be amended at any time as long as it is within the 30 day period, which can be the case if new evidence is presented.
Appointment for Appellate Counsel
If your case is categorized as a criminal case, your defense attorney is supposed to submit a motion for appointment of appellate counsel during the time when he/she is filing a notice of appeal, if possible, before leaving the courtroom. Your lawyer should attach the motion for appointment of counsel with an affidavit that clearly states that he/she is indigent. The primary reason for the motion is to protect the right of the defendant to appoint a legal counsel on appeal. This leaves a window for the defendant’s loved ones to later appoint an attorney for the defendant.
Constructing the Record on Appeal
Your defense lawyer has the responsibility of creating the record upon the start of the appeal process. This is because the cases are usually reviewed for any legal errors. Since the court of appeal will look into the appellate record, the defense attorney needs to do a thorough job. The court of appeals are only required to go through the appellate records and not conduct a new trial, hear witnesses’ statements, or accept new affidavits. The only documents to be considered include the clerk’s record and also the reporter’s record.
Working with an experienced appeal attorney can help ease the stress during the appeal process because you are assured of receiving expert service. The process of constructing the record to be reviewed by the court requires your lawyer to write to the clerk by instructing him/her about the information to be included in the record. The clerk will then provide copies of the necessary information by charging a per-page fee.
The appellant’s attorney also has to communicate to the court reporter by formally requesting the transcripts recorded during the trial. What follows is that the court reporter prepares a cost estimate, then prepares the transcript and finally file the record with the court of appeals. The court reporter’s record and the clerk’s record constitute the whole appellate record, which is the only information that the justices of the higher court will review.
When the appellate records are filed, the appellant’s attorney will, therefore, have 30 days for filing the opening brief or filing a request for an extension. As soon as the court receives the opening brief, the opposing side, which is either the appellee of the state, should file the response brief. The defendant then files a reply brief by addressing the statements argued by the appellee or the state.
The Decision of the Court
As soon as the appellate record and the briefs of the parties involved are presented to the court, the justices are required to review the briefs and the records. The justices might schedule for oral arguments from each attorney to take about twenty minutes to answer any questions provided by the judges. When the submission of oral arguments is complete, the judges then submit the case for a ruling, after which they present a written opinion about the case.
What Happen After the Appeal?
Motion for rehearing and petition for case review. An unsuccessful appellant has only 15 days to file for a motion for rehearing. In the event where the motion is denied, the appellant has 30 days to submit a petition for discretionary review addressed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for a criminal case. In a civil case, the defendant has 45 days to file for a review petition to the Texas Supreme Court.
When filing for a petition for review, it is important to adhere to the set rules, which included limiting the number of pages to fifteen only. The review should carefully explain the importance of the case and why it is so special, including why it should be accepted by the higher court for further review. In the event that the petition for review is denied, then your attorney will explain to you that there is nothing further that can be done.
If the petition for review is accepted, your attorney will be required to submit additional briefs as the appellate records are submitted to the supreme court. The court will allow time for oral arguments from concerned parties and then make a decision by providing a written opinion that reflects the final outcome of your case.